Hooked on books: motivation and reading with Chaz Pugliese

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Chaz Pugliese

In this series of interviews we talk to teachers, ELT writers, visual artists and researchers about the importance of using literature in the language classroom. Together they have over a hundred years of experience in teaching and writing so they can definitely give us plenty of advice and insight into the best practices. We talk about the importance and transformation of literary texts in education, we ask for genre and title recommendations as well as personal stories.

This month we talked to Chaz Pugliese, the author of our latest resource book for teacher, Creating Motivation. He is co-author of the resource book The Principled Communicative Approach. He is also a well-known teacher trainer and presenter. We talked about motivation, reading and language teaching.

“The stories we tell about ourselves may not be true, but they are all we have.”

(The Good Story, J. M. Coetzee)

Helbling Readers Blog (HRB): Chaz, how long have you been working as a teacher?

Chaz: I’m in my 25th year now, and in six countries. It’s been a great ride so far, I’ll tell you!

HRB: And as an author and teacher trainer?

Chaz: As a teacher trainer about 15 years, and as an author, my first book came out in 2010, even though I’d contributed a few chapters to other colleagues’ books before that.

HRB: What do you like reading when you read for pleasure?

I kind of keep swinging between fiction and poetry and essays. We live in a very complex world, I need essays to develop a better understanding of what we’re doing to ourselves and where we’re heading as a human species. But I also need and crave stories. As J.M. Coetzee said, the stories we tell may not all be necessarily true, but that’s all we have. Finally, poetry just reminds me what it feels like to be alive!

HRB: How do you see the status of reading in the English classroom?

Chaz: I don’t know about other people’s classrooms, I can only say that in my teaching, there’s always been a big emphasis on reading, though not just stories. As far as I’m concerned this is a great way to keep the students engaged and to expose them to the target language.

HRB: Can you give us an example of when you used narratives in your teaching?

Chaz: I like to use short stories for Oulipo-type exercises: for example, students read a very short story 4-5 lines max, or a paragraph from a story, and they have to rewrite it skipping a designated vowel. They can change anything they want but the original meaning should remain intact.

HRB: Can you give us an example how reading can be motivational in the classroom?

Chaz: Well, for starters, reading is motivational only if the students like reading. Reading makes you travel, think, learn, doubt, in one word: grow. And a classroom, education, in fact, should be conducive to growth, not to yet another test!

HRB: Can you think of authors (both classic and modern) whose works you have used with your groups?

Chaz: Lately, I’ve been using David Forster Wallace, Ray Carver, E. Hemingway, and the late Polish poet whose name I can never remember… [Wisława Szymborska – the editor].

Thank you for the interview, Chaz!

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