Introducing Students to Meditation

When asked what they get out of the classroom in addition to language skills, ESL students will often tout the friendships they’ve made with their classmates, their increased confidence when interacting with native speakers, and a better understanding of English-speaking cultures. Wouldn’t it be great if they could add a coping strategy to deal with stress to their list?

Introducing students to meditation teaches them a way to find calm in their hectic lives. It’s a strategy that’s easy to incorporate into ESL lessons and complements a number of language topics including the present tense, sensory verbs, the imperative, and prepositions. It also lends itself to general themes such as health, modern life, and daily routines. Below you will find a guided meditation used to reinforce vocabulary related to body parts.

Before you begin the mediation session with your students, pre-teach any unfamiliar words or phrases (e.g., breathe, breath, rise, fall, tighten, loosen, inhale, exhale, etc.). Share some of the benefits of meditation (e.g., reduces stress, controls anxiety, lengthens attention span, etc.).

Briefly explain the activity. Tell students you are going to guide them through a number of steps that will help them focus on different parts of their body.

If possible, turn off or dim the lights before you lead the meditation. Then read out the following steps to your students:

  1. Close your eyes. Make sure both feet are on the floor and your back is touching your chair.
  2. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth. Put your hand on your chest. Notice how it rises when you breathe in and falls when you breathe out.
  3. Now bring your attention to your feet. Move your toes around a little. Feel them as they touch your socks and shoes.
  4. Slowly move your attention up to your legs. Notice how the chair feels against your thighs.
  5. Think about your back and where the chair touches it. Allow yourself to relax into the chair. Notice where you feel the chair on your back now.
  6. Move your attention back to your chest. Focus again on the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
  7. Now tighten your jaw. Hold it there. And relax. Feel the muscles as they loosen.
  8. Direct your attention to your nose. Feel your nostrils as you inhale and exhale.
  9. Take one more deep breath. As you breathe out, slowly open your eyes.

Make sure to ask follow-up questions after the session (e.g., How did you feel before the session? How did you feel during it? How do you feel now?).

If this practice is something your students enjoy, consider letting a student volunteer lead subsequent meditations. You can also write the meditations with the class on the board or assign them as group work. The important thing is to keep the stress level as low as possible. And breathe!

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12 comments

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  1. Janice from Brazil says:

    May 04, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Very interesting article. I did some meditation lessons when I was pregnant. Though the muscles of a pregnant woman change position, breathing is very important. Most people’s breathing is wrong. The correct way is to breathe with the diaphragm, an important muscle between chest cavity and abdominal cavity. Breathing with the diaphragm is an important exercise for health and the mind.

    Reply

    • Tara Benwell says:

      May 06, 2019 at 10:27 am

      Thanks for sharing your great breathing tips, Janice! I often try to remind my daughter of this when she is stressed out.

      Reply

    • Ann Dickson says:

      May 06, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Janice,
      I wish I had known about meditation when I was pregnant! I am going to practice breathing with my diaphragm from now on. Thanks for your tip!

      Reply

  2. Kyeongki says:

    May 04, 2019 at 4:53 am

    I learned about meditation and I learned new words. When we have stress, we should meditate.

    Reply

    • Tara Benwell says:

      May 06, 2019 at 10:26 am

      It sounds like you killed two birds with one stone, Kyeongki! Our goal at ESL Library is always for students to learn new things while also practicing the language. Teachers can learn a lot too!

      Reply

    • Ann Dickson says:

      May 06, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      Hi Kyeongki!
      I hope you find meditation as useful as I do. It always helps me calm down when I’m feeling anxious. It’s amazing how much you can improve with practice too—just like English!

      Reply

  3. Nana says:

    May 02, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Japan has Zazen that is one of the meditation of temple style. Methods are that sit on a floor, cross your legs, close your eyes and don’t move. If you move even a little, a monk will hit your shoulder with a flat stick. Many foreigners try this these days. You should try it if you come to Japan.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zazen

    Reply

    • Tara Benwell says:

      May 06, 2019 at 10:24 am

      That is so interesting, Nana! I hope they don’t hit too hard. Ha. I really hope to visit Japan one day. When I taught English in Vancouver, I learned so much about Japan from all of my amazing Japanese students. I’d love to see the cherry blossoms.

      Reply

    • Ann Dickson says:

      May 06, 2019 at 1:21 pm

      Hi Nana!
      I just read the wikipedia link you included with your comment. I was really interested in the idea of “koans” (stories, dialogues, questions, or statements that are used to provoke “great doubt”). I am going to do more research on this idea. Thank you!

      Reply

  4. Teacher Sab (Philippines) says:

    May 01, 2019 at 3:01 am

    The concept of meditation or mindfulness is a very familiar topic that has been mentioned and integrated into some of the teaching seminar-workshops I’ve attended. We usually had brain breaks for a few minutes to meditate, relax, and find focus after hours of lectures and activities. I think meditation is a good habit to be learned by everyone, young and old, as life seems to be too fast-paced most of the time. Thank you so much for sharing these tips and ideas! I hope everyone at ESL Library finds inner peace! :)

    Reply

    • Tara Benwell says:

      May 06, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Thanks, Teacher Sab! It’s so great to hear that busy teachers are being taught these techniques. We have a ping pong table in the office that helps our team unwind. Maybe a meditation corner would be a good idea too!

      Reply

    • Ann Dickson says:

      May 06, 2019 at 1:25 pm

      Hello Teacher Sab!
      Thank you for your comment. I used this lesson plan in my own classroom and my adult immigrant students really enjoyed it. In fact, they ask me to start every class with it now. It really helps us focus.

      Reply

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