Making a Difference – Part I

This week I thought I would share a motivational strategy that I have been using to help show learners that they can make a difference in class. I’m going to follow this up with a blog about a teacher who is going the extra mile and really making a difference to his students, so please look out for that one too!

In recent years, it has become widely recognized that motivation is a hugely important factor in language learning success. Learning a second language is certainly a long and arduous task, and maintaining a certain level of motivation is certainly going to help the learner along their journey. For teachers, fortunately, researchers and educators have started to develop motivational strategies to use in their classes.

I have been developing short narratives to implement some of these strategies and I’d like to share one with you. It’s not an original story, but I apply the principles of the story to our classroom in order to encourage the learners to help make the classroom atmosphere more pleasant and cooperative.


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The story is about my favorite animal. I start by asking the class what they think my favorite animal is. I usually get a variety of ideas, but none of the learners guess that my favorite animal is a goose. I show a picture of some geese and ask the class to guess why I like geese. I usually give a multiple choice of answers with the correct one being that geese are amazing animals.

I then show a picture of geese flying in a v-shaped formation and ask them do they know why they fly this way. The answer is that they can fly about 70% further flying in this fashion. I then highlight the goose at the head of the formation and explain that this goose is acting as a temporary leader. I continue to tell them that being at the front is hard work, so when this bird gets tired it, goes to the back and takes a rest. Subsequently, another bird takes its place and assumes the role of temporary leader. I then tell them that all the geese in that formation, except the leader, make a honking noise. I ask the class why they think they do this. I explain it’s a form of encouragement for the leader. They’re telling the leader to do his or her best and keep going. I finally explain what happens if a goose in the formation gets sick. Each time a goose gets sick, another two geese go down to the ground with that goose. They stay with the bird until it recovers or it dies. They then join a new formation.

After I have finished the story I explain that I like geese because I think they are amazing animals. I then pose this question to the class: Why did I tell you this story? Of course, I tell this story to encourage them to work together and help each other. I also explain that for some parts of class that I can be the leader, but I ask them to try to show me some encouragement, to honk at me from time to time. This honking can be in the form of a smile, a laugh, or even just a nod of the head. I also tell the class that I’d like each of them from time to time to lead the group or help a struggling member. They can do this by sharing something that they know, asking questions, or by helping out someone who isn’t following the material.

I finish by telling them they can all make a difference to this class. By working together they can travel much further using the same amount of energy. They will also get the support of their classmates and hopefully make a few friends and have some fun along the way.

The story seems to resonate with my learners. I think they get to understand that by simply smiling at me or by teaching the definition of a word to a friend they are actually really helping the class. Each little positive action they do whilst in class can benefit the whole group. Even the teacher! I’m pretty sure that this story has helped to create the basic foundations for motivated learning to happen in my classes.

As this blog is here to help teachers save time, I’ve actually made a power point to share that you can use to help you tell this story if you’re interested. Just click on the link and you can get it for free. Please let me know what you think of the story, and if you use it, how it goes.


  • Michael Greenberg

    I think you have chosen an absolutely wonderful way to encourage cooperation among your students and create a more positive classroom dynamic. Not only is the topic something that almost all students can relate to, you have intertwined the theme of cooperation in a very learner-centered way. I have been teaching for close to twenty years and have attended dozens of conferences, and to be honest, this is one of the best lessons ideas I have seen in a long time. Keep up the good work!

    • admin

      Thank you very much, Michael! Please let us know how it goes.

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