Lesson 3: Anxiety

Ways to Decrease Anxiety

In the previous lessons, current research about the widespread phenomenon of foreign language anxiety was summarized. Still, many teachers believe that some degree of anxiety is actually good for learning, including language learning. This raised the question: How much anxiety is good for learning and when does it become detrimental?

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Is some anxiety good?

Duration: 01:30

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While some anxiety increases adrenalin and actually facilitates performance, too much anxiety greatly hampers performance (e.g., the well-known phenomenon of a student who "goes blank" when called on by the teacher). Given that classroom language learning is already inherently stressful, it follows that teachers should seek ways to reduce their students' anxiety. But how is this best accomplished?

Brainstorm a few practical techniques to reduce your students' anxiety.

Attack Negative Thoughts

One of the most effective ways to help your students to deal with anxiety is to attack their negative thoughts. Many anxious students actually provoke their anxiety by setting unreasonable standards for their performance. Teachers can help students simply by identifying perfectionist tendencies that keep them from recognizing their language learning successes. In essence, the teacher should help anxious students to focus less on what they are doing wrong and more on what they are doing right.

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Helping students to stay positive about their performance.

Duration: 01:35

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Student-Centered Lessons

Teachers should plan their lessons from the students' perspective. In other words, teachers should ask themselves whether an activity may be embarrassing or anxiety-provoking for students.

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Creating lesson plans from the students' perspective.

Duration: 00:38

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Create Opportunities to Discuss Anxiety

Many students find it tremendously helpful to know that their teacher acknowledges the reality of their anxiety. Anxious students almost always benefit from finding out that they are not alone in their struggles. Therefore, teachers are encouraged to discuss language anxiety openly with their students.

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Making anxiety a topic of discussion in language classes.

Duration: 01:02

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Here is a summary of a few tips to follow to reduce anxiety:

  • Use group work to give students practice saying new phrases before asking them to perform individually.
  • Acknowledge students' anxious feelings and help them realize that anxiety is a widespread phenomenon.
  • Encourage students to concentrate on communicative success rather than formal accuracy.
  • Ask yourself how it must feel to be a student in your language classroom from time to time.