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“People who want to do everything all at once generally don’t get anything done.”
—Jerry Brown (1938-), former Governor of California
When was the last time you were “stressed”? At home? In the classroom? How did you manage? Conversations about stress are an important means of self-expression and self-evaluation. Consequently, discussing the concept of stress and its grammatical use in the English classroom can be an engaging topic for hectic ESL students.
It’s noteworthy that Americans often use this term differently than many international students may expect. While typically used as a noun, stress also has an idiomatic use as a verb too. (“I’m really stressed at work right now”). Try beginning this topic in the classroom with an article about reducing stress. Short, contemporary articles on this topic usually connect the modern American idea of “stress” to the biological “fight or flight” response, a powerful human instinct widely believed to be an artifact of our time as cave people and hunter-gatherers.
Addressing Our Stress
However, these old instincts can be counter-productive in modern societies too. Unfortunately, violence in schools and the workplace remain far too common in the United States. Employees are not allowed to pick up a heavy rock and smash co-workers while feeling overly pressured. Thus, in modern America “stress management,” or dealing with and reducing stress remains an important workplace safety issue. After establishing and defining the concept of stress, you can further develop your ESL students’ understanding by asking them what sort of events can be stressful in their daily lives.
- Does speaking English cause stress? When? Why?
- Does traffic cause stress? Do they know the term ‘road rage’?
- When do they feel great pressure or stress?
- How do they know if someone is feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
- Do they care for young children or ailing parents?
Reducing Stress and Increasing Happiness
After asking these types of questions, you may have your students write a short entry about a stressful event and share with the class. We also recommend assigning the “Reducing Stress and Increasing Happiness” Search and Share from the Creating Compelling Conversations activity sampler on our site.
Discussing stress in the English classroom can foster more emotionally articulate students and creates compelling conversations. It’s also a chance to share survival tips and re-enforce healthy habits. How do you address stress in your classroom?
For more English classroom activities, check out Creating Compelling Conversations: Reproducible Search and Share Activities for English Teachers, available now on Amazon! Individual units are also available to download on Teachers Pay Teachers.