• Inspirational English

8 minutes in bygone New York

Updated: Apr 7

Mindful lesson plan

Have you been to New York City?

I haven´t…and since I am not a city person I do not think I will plan a visit to this cosmopolitan place. However, if I had a magic wand, I would love to travel back in time and see what life was like 100 years ago.

Luckily, due to Denis Shiryaev´s incredible restoration skills, I was able to have a stroll around the old streets of NY depicted in this video.

So here´s my suggestion for a mindful trip to New York City:

Step 1

Ask the students to brainstorm words they associate with New York City. If someone has been to NY, they may want to share their experience there.

I would expect some of the following vocabulary:

Busy, crowded, hustle and bustle, skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, noisy, tourists, cabs

Step 2

Ask the students to imagine what life was like there 100 years ago. Here are some questions to discuss:

What did the streets look like?

How did people get around?

What clothes did people wear?

What did the buildings look like?

What sounds could be heard?

What smells were there?

Were people in a hurry or do you think they enjoyed a leisurely walk?

Step 3

Mindful observation

Tell the students that they will watch colourised footage that was taken in NY City in 1911. While watching it, they need to complete the following sentences:

I can see…

I can hear…

I can smell…

I can touch…

I feel…

Step 4

After watching the video, check the students´ ideas. You may want to teach some specific vocabulary that appears in the footage:

rails, monument, pram, shoe shiners, smog, steamboat, walking stick, horseshoe, whistle, horns, horses neighing, soot, vintage cars

Step 5


1. How did life in NY differ 100 years ago? ( encourage students to use the constructions: used to/would)

2. What surprised you most in the video?

3. How do you think the quality of life was different back then?

4. Would you like to have lived in that bygone era?

5. If so, how would your life have been different?

Step 6

Mindful meditation

I often use meditations with my students as a pre-writing activity because they:

stimulate the imaginative aspects of the brain;

encourage critical thinking

enable us to reflect on our thoughts

help us to learn how to manage our emotions

we become more self-aware

You can find out more about meditations and how I use them in class in my blog posts

Empower your students with this amazing mindfulness tool

and Meditate your way to English

So here´s my brand-new meditation BEING AWARE, which aims to help your students relax and become more self-aware.

Purchase the meditation here

Step 7

After the meditation, read the following writing prompt to the students

Imagine that you have a time machine and you can travel to New York in 1911. You have exactly eight minutes to write about your experiences there. Use words that describe what you heard, saw, smelled, tasted and touched during your travel. How did you feel?

NB. While the students are writing, you can play only the sounds from the video in the background to help them step back in time.

After completing the exercise, ask the students to share their stories. How are they similar or different?


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Until we meet again, be blessed

Marusya Price

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