7 ways to create interest in the lesson topic

This post describes 7 ways to create interest in the topic of the class and introduce it in an engaging way which will help increase students’ motivation to participate in the lesson. The ideas below might be easily adapted for different group sizes, levels, and ages.

“So, today we’re going to talk about…”; have you ever been in this classroom? If you have, then you surely know that any interest that students might have had in the topic of the class is gone. These first couple of minutes we spend in the room (or online!) with our students are crucial in order to engage them and give us, the teachers, the opportunity to start off on the right foot: by creating interest in what we are about to teach.

What do I mean by creating interest? I mean approaching the topic in such a way that will make your students want to find out more about it, creating a little mystery about what’s about to happen during the lesson, allowing them to think about it creatively and use deduction to figure out what they are in for.

Why is it important to create interest in the topic? That’s an easy one: an interested student is more motivated to learn. Not a lot of topics sound super fascinating on their own (at least not to everybody) but they might be made MORE INTERESTING for the students in these initial minutes of the class. Conversely, even the most interesting topic might be wasted by the “open your books to page…” approach. Making students excited about the topic creates a more effective learning environment and does wonders to the morale (both your students’ and yours).

Below you can find 7 ideas on how to create interest in the topic of your class. They might be easily adapted for different group sizes, levels, and ages.

1.Use facts and figures: deduction

Topic: Television

Level: any


  • research 3 pieces of data about television that are represented by numbers (see some examples here)

  • draw a TV on the board/ show a picture / use the TV you have in the room

  • establish what the topic of the class (that’s an easy one: TeeVee!)

  • Write your three numbers next to your picture / attach post-it notes to the real TV in your classroom

  • ask your students to work in pairs to find out WHAT these numbers have to do with the topic of television

  • elicit different ideas from your students and put them on the board

  • reveal the actual meaning behind each number (your students are likely to get surprised here or even terrified)

  • Ask whether your students find any of the data surprising / weird / unbelievable etc.? If the data you selected applies to a different country than the one you teach in, ask your students whether they think these numbers are higher / lower/similar for their country


  • for less advanced students I prepare a matching exercise where they pair numbers with their meaning

  • choose figures which are not too obscure and relate to different concepts i.e: duration, points in time, % of something, a number of units etc.

The numbers are usually select for this activity:

  • The television is on an average of 7 hours 40 minutes a day in U.S. homes. (duration)

  • The average household has 2.4 TV sets. ( the number of something)

  • 98% of all U.S. households own at least one set. ( the percentage of something)

2. Use a quote: discussion

Topic: Feelings and emotions

Level: intermediate and above


  • Research a couple of quotes related to the topic you want to teach (see here for examples). My pick would be:

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

  • Display the quote on the board and ask your students to discuss it in pairs / small groups to see whether they agree with it.

  • Check what your students think about the message behind the quote and see whether they can guess the topic of the class


  • Try to choose shorter and more straightforward quotes. While some students enjoy philosophical debates, others might feel uncomfortable dealing with a too abstract quote.

  • If you can quotes by famous people, who your students are familiar with, it might increase their interest.

  • Famous advertising slogans  ( Just do it, Connecting People, I’m lovin’ it ) also work well to create interest in the topic of advertising / consumerism / commerce.

3. Use a quote: gap filling

Topic: Family

Level: intermediate and above


  • Research some quotes on the topic you want to teach and delete 2 or 3 words, depending on the length of the quote. It works best with funny and humorous quotes (you can find  examples here)

  • Display the quote on the board and ask your students to work in pairs / small groups to come up with words to fill the gaps. Depending on their level, you might give them hints (part of speech / first letter / number of letters) and for lower level students you might even provide the missing words in a random order for the students to put them in the gaps.

  • Once the quote has been successfully completed, have your students discuss whether they agree with it etc.

  • One of my favourite quotes is this one from Socrates:

By all means, marry. If you get a good …………….., you’ll become ………….; if you get a …………… one, you’ll become a ………………….

the missing words are respectively: wife, happy, bad, philosopher

4. Use pictures: what do they have in common?

Topic: Success

Level: pre-intermediate and above


  • Select 3 photographs somehow relating to the topic you are wishing to teach. My pics for this topic usually are: Steve Jobs, Leo Messi, J.K. Rowling

  • Ask your students to write as many adjectives that apply to all three people (rich, famous, happy, busy, smart, successful, hard-working, lucky, the list goes on)

  • Discuss the adjectives with your students and ask them to decide which adjective describes the people in the pictures best. Don’t worry if they don’t agree on successful, simply point out that it’s also a very accurate adjective and introduce the topic.

5. Use parts of pictures: what are they?

Topic: any

Level: any


  • Select some pictures relating to the topic you are planning to teach and crop them so that it’s not easy to figure out what they show.

  • Distribute pictures among your students and ask them to figure out what’s in them, how they relate to each other and what the topic of the class might be.


  • You might use any images you can get your hands on. I usually crop images I find online but if you are experiencing toner and printing issues at your school, try cutting up magazines and newspapers.

  • For smaller groups, I sometimes create a collage from the parts of images I’m using (especially if I cut them from magazines) and display it for all the students to see and brainstorm what the topic is together.

6. Use a list: create a ranking

Topic: holidays

Level:  pre-intermediate and above


  • Make a list of items related to the topic you are about to teach and order them (top 5 is enough). Don’t make your ranking too obvious but try not to make it too obscure either. When I teach about holidays I usually order the destinations according to their popularity / price / distance from the city where I teach. To make the ranking more interesting, you might put the LEAST popular item as no. 1.

  • Your students’ task is to guess what the ranking shows and what the order of the items is based on.

  • Once the mystery is solved, see what your students think about the presented order, whether they would change it, add / delete any items from the list and ask why.

7. Use realia: guessing game

Topic:  Past / Future

Level: elementary and above


  • Select 5-7 objects, they might be anything that fits into a bag. Depending on your students’ level, try finding objects whose names they already know.

  • Bring your collection to the class and take out one object at a time asking your students “Where was I yesterday?” (“what am I going to do this weekend” if you choose to focus on the future). If you show your students a book they might answer “school”, “library”, “bookstore”, if you show them a bracelet they might say “party”, “shop”, “disco” etc. Welcome all suggestions but then reveal the “truth”(it’s best if you choose one of your students’ answers, everybody enjoys being right 🙂 )

  • Don’t worry if your students give you one-word answers, at this stage you just want to get them curious and engaged.


Do you know more effective ways to create interest in the lesson topic? Please, leave a comment. 

Are you looking for more useful lists? Take a look here, here, here, and here.






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