Motivation and Emotion Psychology Activities

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Teaching your high school students about the complexity of motivation and emotion in psychology can be a daunting task. Use these engaging activities to help your students apply their knowledge about the essential concepts and theories.

Motivation and Emotion Psychology Activities

With such a vast amount of content related to motivation and emotion in psychology, it can be a challenge to help students apply their knowledge. Use these activities to engage your high school students in hands-on application of theoretical concepts. Each activity is designed to be a team vs. team competition; however, they also have an independent component to help solidify student learning.

Theoretical Debate

  • Materials: basic debate guidelines, summary sheet of theories related to motivation and emotion (optional, for added support), debate analysis or evaluation form (optional, for added support)

In this activity, student teams will prepare for a debate with their classmates, each taking on the viewpoint of a theory related to motivation and emotion. Begin this activity by teaming students and assigning them a theory. For example, one team may be assigned the James-Lange Theory, which attributes emotion to the body's response to stressors. Another team could be assigned the Two-Factor Theory, which considers physiology, cognition, and emotion to be interrelated.

Next, provide teams with basic debate guidelines. Keep them simple so that they do not become the focal point of the activity. Provide adequate time for students to plan for their main talking points. Additionally, allow teams to practice a few times before the debate takes place. You may choose to have a single person from the team serve as the speaker or require that each member engage in a portion of the debate. Wrap up the activity by asking students to independently create a chart that notes the salient points of each theory covered.

Differentiation Ideas:

  • For added support, provide students with a summary sheet of their assigned theory.
  • For an added challenge, ask students to compile their own notes before planning their debate.
  • Keep audience members engaged by having them complete a debate analysis or evaluation form so they are fully engaged.

Stress Factor

  • Materials: stress concepts summary sheet (optional, for added support)

In this activity, student teams will work to address stressful situations by applying related psychological concepts. Begin this activity by placing students into teams and explaining the objective of the activity. Students will utilize the SRRS (social readjustment rating scale) to determine the level of stress within each scenario and identify a concept-based method to lower it. For example, a team could use Seyle's General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) or the concept that the perception of control affects stress levels to solve the stress problem.

Ask each team to create three stress scenarios, based on their conceptual knowledge. Next, combine two teams together and ask them to trade scenarios. Teams should rate the scenarios first using the social readjustment rating scale. Then, they should discuss solutions that may reduce the stress rating. Provide time for teams to present their conclusions to one another. Wrap up this activity by requiring students to independently explain and rate a stressful situation in their own lives.

Differentiation Ideas:

  • For added support, provide a summary sheet of the pertinent concepts related to stress causes and reactions.
  • To increase the challenge, ask teams to tie each scenario to a specific conceptual framework and explain the connection.
  • To extend the activity, require that teams either approve or challenge each other's solutions.

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