Teaching Matters: Discussing Stress in the Classroom


“People who want to do everything all at once generally don’t get anything done.”

—Jerry Brown, Governor of California

This Teacher Edition Tuesday post, a weekly series based on ten teaching tips from the recently released Compelling American Conversations – Teacher Edition, deals with the concept of stress and how to talk about it – in English.


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, reviewing the concept of stress and its grammatical use in American English 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.

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?


After asking these types of questions, you may have your students write a short entry about a stressful event and share with the class. If you are using Compelling American Conversations as your in-class text, you can assign the “Reducing Stress and Increasing Happiness” worksheet from the Handling Stress chapter for homework.

Talking about 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?

Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.
Visit www.CompellingConversations.com


Teacher Edition Tuesdays feature material introduced in Compelling American Conversations – Teacher Edition, the companion text to the original Compelling American Conversations. Sample chapters of each are available on CompellingConversations.com and ChimayoPress.com. We also offer a free copy of the Teacher Edition with class sets for adult ESL schools, literacy centers, Intensive English language programs (IEP) , church and other non-profit groups offering ESL classes to immigrants and refugees. Contact Eric Roth here for more information.

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