Published 14th June 2018

Stress in the classroom

It’s not often that stress is thought of as a positive aspect of life. However, there are certain situations where a little bit of stress can be beneficial. There is no doubt that even the most fun English as a Foreign Language classroom can be a stressful place. After all, learning a language is not easy. So why not try to harness that stress in the classroom into something useful.

How can stress  in the classroom be positive?

Stress is not always bad. Of course, if there is too much stress in a situation or if we react badly to stress, then it can be negative. As a result of this stress we can feel demotivated, unenthusiastic or even unwilling to learn. On the other hand, if there is too little stress, we may feel unchallenged and bored.

It actually makes more sense to think of the problem not as stress but as challenge. We need challenge to be motivated to do a task but not too much challenge that we feel we can’t do it. As teachers it is up to us to find a balance between the two when it comes to stress in the classroom.

How can we use stress to our advantage in the EFL classroom?

What’s more, it’s been shown that we need a certain level of challenge to make learning more memorable. In other words, the easier something is for us to learn, the less likely we are to remember it.  To this end, we should try to make sure the activities in our lessons are pitched at the right level for our students. Make sure your activities are not too easy and not too hard.

Easier said than done! Of course it can be hard to manage this when you have a classroom of 30 different students. To remedy this, for each activity, make sure you have thought of a way to scaffold the activity or to make it more difficult. During the activity you can judge whether you need to give more help to certain students or make it more challenging for others.

At the same time, we need to create a learning environment which our students feel comfortable in. In this way, even if they do feel stress they will still feel happy enough to risk making mistakes. Taking risks in language is one of the ways we learn. Our students need to feel comfortable enough to take risks and make mistakes in order to learn.

This is how stress in the classroom can be used to our advantage. When planning, make sure you have options to make your activities more challenging. During activities don’t give them all the answers immediately, let them struggle for a while to complete the task themselves.