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3 Secrets of Establishing Rapport With Students

3 Secrets of Establishing Rapport With Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Friendly atmosphere in a classroom is crucially important. Not only does it create a conducive environment for the study process, where students are relaxed and therefore tend to participate more, but also provides a safe space for a teacher. From my experience, building good rapport is especially important for young teachers as it helps to boost their confidence and unleash all the potential they have in order to make lessons effective and fun. Here are some ways of forging a friendly relationship with students, that worked out for me.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Anastasiya E. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

1. Learn students’ names

Apparently, the very first thing one should do when meeting a new group is to learn their names. It might be a bit tricky due to their large number: for example, when I first started teaching at university, the number of my new students amounted to 50 people overall. Notwithstanding my excellent memory for faces, remembering a single name out of fifty in virtually an instant was sometimes an issue. What I did was ask the students to write their names down on stickers so I could take a look at them during the lesson and call everyone by their names. And here is the thing: when trying to memorise or learn something, you should repeatedly use it as many times as possible until it sticks in your mind. The same is true for the students’ names: seize every opportunity to use them each time you address someone or give a comment.

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Another opportunity for me to match the names with the faces that I knew well was the attendance check prior to the lesson, which was obligatory. Yet another option to announce the names might be giving out the checked test papers: you simply read a name on the paper out loud and the one whom it belongs to raises their hand.

However, I assume that the very best way to learn your students’ names is to get to know their personalities, thus building better rapport and getting to understand their interests to a larger degree. To be able to do this, first of all, you have to be genuinely interested in your students and display a generally positive attitude towards them. Chatting in between or before classes, even if discussing something not really relevant to your current topics, is a quick way to win anyone’s heart. In my case, I would say, it was exactly discussing things completely irrelevant to the classes that made me a rather nice yet earthly human being in their eyes.

2. Learn about their interests

An effective way to get to know your students’ interests is not to be afraid to share some of yours in the first place. It does give a sense of a safe environment and the willingness to share back. Moreover, as well as giving personalised task you can use the tasks which help to know your students better, those requiring personal examples, for instance.

A fine example of that can be drawn from my own teaching experience. At the School of Foreign Languages of Higher School of Economics in Moscow, where I worked, teaching English was carried out through three separate yet interconnected university subjects: Speech Practice, Phonetics, and Grammar. Within such a curriculum, only the former resembled an average EFL lesson, whereas the other two subjects focused exclusively on the particular aspects of the language, using certain approaches which were far from being communicative. Having taught Grammar, I had very little freedom within the comprehensive programme and even less time. We had to tackle fairly sophisticated topics in next to no time, and therefore it was crucially important that my students memorised the material. So upon completing an exercise, I usually asked the students to construct a sentence about themselves, using the focus grammar, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Not only did personalizing helped my students master the grammar unit, but also their peers and I learned something new about them.

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3. Make fun

Indubitably, another perfect icebreaker is laughter. Cracking a suitable joke every now and then can drastically improve your relationship with a class. However, in terms of humour, a teacher needs to be extremely careful to avoid certain topics in order not to offend anyone. Also, one must never make fun of the students themselves.

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In conclusion, it should be said that there is, in fact, no single ultimate solution to establishing rapport with students. Neither can a teacher achieve good results in it simply by using a range of rapport-building techniques without actually liking the students and respecting them. I would not claim that developing great rapport was easy to do, but it came naturally after I had realised that possibly the only important things were treating my students with respect, notwithstanding their results, and being consistent and reasonable in imposing requirements and rules. Therefore, the students are likely to respect and admire you back.

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