A Study about Motivation for Learning English in a Vocational High-School

We would like to demonstrate how games can work in a vocational high school and how they can function like a motivational tool for teaching English as a second language. The main role of a teacher is to motivate students to learn and find pleasure and delight in the proccess of learning. A teacher who does not find a way to touch the students’ hearts and lives, is not an efficient one. In order to achieve this goal, we should be more humanistic and creative in our methods of teaching. Being an “unplugged” teacher means to be able to transmit the information to students using motivational methods proper to their level, desire and needs.

“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” (Covey, Stephen). Motivation is like an energizer which helps to make the neccessary effort in order to achieve a goal. Gardner explains the term as a combination of effort, desire to achieve a goal and favorable attitudes towards the goal to be accomplished. (Gardner, R. C. 1985.  p. 10)

Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards, such as money or grades. An intrinsic motivated person will work naturally because of the pleasure he has when doing an activity.

As educators, teachers could stimulate students get inner motivation by setting meaningful goals for them, making them aware of the importance of learning a foreign language, and creating enjoyable moments in the process of learning.

Extrinsic motivation refers to motivation that comes from outside an individual. The motivating factors that are external can be rewards such as prizes or grades. These rewards provide satisfaction and pleasure that the task itself may not provide. An extrinsically motivated person will work on a task even when they have little interest in it because of the anticipated satisfaction they will get from some reward. (Gardner, R. C. 1985.  p. 10)

Games are closely connected with motivation. For example Khan emphasizes usefulness of the game because of its motivating importance: “It is clear then that games -since children naturally want to play them- can be motivating.” (Khan, Julia. P.1991: 143).

Using didactic games and songs instead of the traditional way of teaching English as a foreign language can be motivational either for the teacher or for the students and can be a way of enhancing creativity and learning process among the students.

Learning a language requires a great deal of effort. Only motivated students are able to make the work seriously and perseverently. Games help students to make and sustain the effort of learning. Here are some motivational factors while playing games.

Creating a positive and relaxing atmosphere in the classroom is vitally important for increasing students’ motivation. A positive learning environment is proper for students’ creativity development. Because the game format is playful, the challenge of the material, even new or difficult material, is less threatening. During the game seemingly difficult questions and scenarios are “just part of the game.”

First of all, games are fun, which is extremelly important, because they can catch our students’ attention and activate passive students. This is a very important condition to have students involved in the process of learning.

Games determine students to look forward to our classes and learn better. What we learn with pleasure we never forget. In this way we can integrate information to practise, creating memorable lessons which can be remembered for the rest of students’ lives. Games mean the world of children. Recalling memories after years, we remember the games played in childhood and the happiest moments of  our lives.

Competition is not always positive for students because some students who win the game can feel they are superior and develop a high self-esteem, while those who lose can feel they are not precious and have a low self-esteem. I think that students should be encouraged to learn how to manage their frustrations and develop their emotional intelligence. Those who lose will not be considered losers, they will be given the opportunity to try again.

On the other hand, competition is a natural part of our world: candidates compete for job interviews; teams compete in sporting events; and, companies compete to gain clients. Competition is also already present in our school evaluation and class ranking. Naturally some students love to compete even if they do not love to do homework, study or participate in class. (Rixon. 1992. P. 4)

Working in a team can help students to be cooperative. It is very important for teenagers to feel that they are integrated and are useful for their team. Learning how to work in a team is very important for their future career. There is more power in a group workshop than in individual work. The main reason is that communication means interactivity and this is possible in groups. Games are real-life activities that bring players into teams, demonstrate the rules and roles of working together as a team, and underscore the value of team collaboration. Games give learners a chance to know their mates as they share the same experiences.

Playing games in groups or pairs means to socialise and overcome their own limits. Trying to do their best, students can gain confidence in their abilities and this can motivate them further. A confident student can consolidate relationships and develop friendship which is motivational.

Most people want to learn a language in order to be able to use it in real situations, for example when travelling abroad, working on computer  or writing to a foreign penfriend. Games can be a very good way to practice these skills because they can easily be used to reenact various situations from real life and provide students with practice in their fluency. By using games in the classroom the teacher gives his or her students a bigger role, allowing them to take on more responsibility (Langran & Purcell.1994. p.12-14).

We can conclude that motivation is the most important factor to involve students in the process of learning. The best  way of motivating children to learn English as a second language is playing games. Educational games create a relaxing atmosphere, add fun and amusement to our classes, develop students’ abilities to compete and cooperate, prepare them for real life situation and for excelent relationships, having self confidence.

Gardner RC. 1985. Social Psychology and Second Language Learning: The role of Attitudes and Motivation. London: Edward Arnold.
Khan, Julia. 1991. Teaching English to Children. London: HarperCollins Publishers.
Langran, John & Purcell, Sue 1994. Language Games and Activities.Netword 2. Teaching Languages To Adults. London: Center for Information on Language Teaching and Research.
Rixon, Shelagh. 1992. Games in Language Teaching, Modern English Publication.

prof. Simona-Adriana Butuc

Liceul Tehnologic Regele Mihai I, Curtea de Argeș (Argeş) , România
Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/simona.butuc

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