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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