Learning Paths

Motivational temperature


To help students assess how and why motivation can change over time and across different tasks


Levels of involvement vary over time due to a range of  objective and subjective factors, e.g. task features, class context, physical and emotional states. This activity aims to make students aware of  the changes in their own motivational levels and to help them express and discuss the reasons for such changes. It will also help you to appreciate how different tasks are actually experienced by the class.


No special materials are needed


Intermediate upwards



Expressing causes and effects

Language of discussion


Choose a lesson during which the students will carry out a number of different tasks (at least three or four, even if quite short), e.g. a listening task, an oral exercise, a reading or writing task, a game, etc.



1. Say to the students: Think of a typical lesson which lasts for an hour or so. Do you feel the same throughout the lesson? Or are there moments when you feel happier, or more interested, or more confident than others? Do you happen to start the lesson in a certain mood and finish it in another mood? What do you think makes you change the way you feel? Briefly collect a number of ideas and highlight examples of possible factors that affect involvement.

2. Explain to the students that today they will be able to assess how their feelings change during the lesson. Draw the following graph on the board for the students to copy. Tell them to leave enough space for the columns below the graph.

I loved it            |

I liked it             |

 It was OK        |

I didn't like it     |

I hated it            |____________________________________

                    Task 1    |    Task 2   |     Task 3   |   Task 4

Can you                               |                 |                   |

say why?                              |                 |                   |

Say: This is like a thermometer: I will ask you to use the graph to take your motivational temperature, i.e. to plot your levels of involvement during the lesson.

3. Do the first task in your lesson. As you finish it, ask the students to mark the degree they liked it on the graph. Give an example: If it was OK, show it like this:.

 I loved it         |   

 I liked it          |

 It was OK      |-------------------

 I didn't like it  |

 I hated it         |_______________

                                  Task 1

Also invite them to write why they liked it (an adjective or a few words will be enough) and give them one or two minutes to think - but don't pretend that everybody writes something if they don't feel like it.

4. Do the same at the end of each of the following tasks.

5. At the end of the lesson, ask the students to compare their completed graphs in pairs or small groups. Ask them to discuss these questions: How did your feelings change during the lesson? What made you feel more involved in what you were doing? What left you happy, interested or confident - or the opposite?

6. Have a short class discussion. Elicit the factors that affected the degree the students felt involved in each task. Try to make the point that each of us reacts differently to the same task - so it is important to become aware of what makes us feel the way we do. This can help us to spot our own strong and weak points and to consider how we can approach different tasks in more positive ways.



Instead of monitoring students' involvement during a lesson, you can use the same activity over a longer period, e.g. a week or a unit of work spreading over several lessons.



You can help students, particularly lower-level ones, to express why they liked or didn't like the tasks by giving (or eliciting from) them a list of "feeling" adjectives, like happy, confident, afraid, interested, bored, excited, and a list of adjectives describing tasks, like boring, interesting, exciting, difficult, long, dull, frustrating - and their opposites.



From time to time you can invite students to "take their motivational temperature" and to discuss how their patterns of motivation change as the course progresses and tasks vary accordingly.



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