Author: Chaz Pugliese
Publisher: Helbling Languages 2017
ISBN: 978-3-990435-508-1

Motivation is a crucial component of teaching. Without student motivation, it can be difficult to guide students successfully through a lesson or series of lessons.

In this new title from Helbling Languages, in their Resourceful Teacher series, Chaz Pugliese shows teachers a myriad of ways to increase motivation and creativity in the classroom through a collection of over 90 activities.

In the book’s introduction, the author begins with a brief but well-thought-out overview of motivation itself. He is quick to point out that there is no magic pill for motivating students, and that a big part of motivating them is to create a environment where they are more likely to take an interest in participating actively. The introduction also touches on the topic of creativity, noting that teacher creativity is an important part of building motivation.

The book is divided into three chapters, each one including 30 or more activities. The author uses the acronym GPS to represent the three factors he believes are most important for motivating a class.

G stands for ‘Group’,
P stands for ‘Priming’ and
S stands for ‘Surprise’.

In Chapter 1, ‘Group processes’, Pugliese argues that students who work together cohesively are often more productive. The activities in this chapter aim to help students get closer as a group – for example, by learning each other’s names, learning more about each other, learning more about the teacher and sharing their feelings.

Chapter 2, ‘Priming’, contains a wide range of activities for getting students ready to learn. Many activities in this chapter take between three and five minutes and are ideal for getting the students to concentrate, deepen their attention to the course material and eliminate distractions.

Chapter 3, ‘Stimulate and surprise’, is all about preventing dull, predictable lessons. As Pugliese wisely notes, ‘these two elements are the mother and father of all teaching’. This chapter features 34 activities that emphasise encouraging student creativity through stories, images, songs, music, short texts and more.

This semester, I used 20 activities from this book with my university students in Taiwan. I added an activity or two to each lesson for several weeks, focusing on the aims of the book (fostering group cohesion, priming the students’ attention and concentration and adding elements of surprise and stimulation). In most cases, I got a positive response from the students. They liked taking a break from the lesson material, and attended to the rest of the lesson with renewed enthusiasm. In one case, while doing an activity called ‘A sticker on my back’, where the students mingle and share information about how they are feeling, a student came over and told me that she really enjoyed the activity. In another lesson, while doing the activity titled ‘Did you write this?’, a student asked me ‘Why are we doing this?’, perhaps reacting to the sudden change of pace. I responded that we were doing the activity to help the class get to know each other better, and use English to communicate.

I particularly enjoyed Chapter 3, since I agree with the author wholeheartedly about the need for surprises and stimulation in the classroom. Also, Chapter 3 contains several longer, more in-depth activities that contain a number of steps, in contrast to the plentiful short activities in Chapters 1 and 2.

One activity I was impressed with is called ‘Pianos and saxophones’. In this activity, the students listen to a piece of music that contains two musical instruments having a ‘musical conversation’. On the author’s recommendation, I used ‘Que reste-t-il de nos amours?’, featuring the accordion and trumpet. The students listen to the music and imagine who the two people are, what their relationship is and what story is represented in the music. When I used this activity in class, I was astonished by the diverse range of interpretations my students produced.

Another activity I also found captivating is ‘Text from Post-its’. In this activity, the students jot down notes on Post-its™ as they listen to the teacher tell a story. (I used a story about two worms that I learnt from Nick Bilbrough’s clever talk for the British Council, ‘Livening up listening’, which is available to view on YouTube). Once the students have heard the story twice, each time taking notes, they put their Post-its on the board, read everyone’s contributions and reconstruct the story in pairs. The classroom was filled with smiles and laughter as the students listened to the story, and then re-told it to a partner.

In conclusion, Creating Motivation is a superb resource for exploring motivation in class. I enjoyed the cleverness of many of the activities, and look forward
to using this book more in the future with other classes.

Hall Houston
Taoyuan, Taiwan