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A Simple Guide on Establishing Rapport From The Very Beginning

A Simple Guide on Establishing Rapport From The Very Beginning | ITTT | TEFL Blog

I have been teaching ESL classes professionally for two years. In addition to this experience, I have several years of experience as a volunteer teacher/mentor with ESL students. Through my experiences, I have learned that importance of establishing immediate rapport in the classroom. In this short article, I will talk about why it is vital to establish rapport from the very first day between the students and teacher as well as among the students. I will offer advice from my own experience of teaching both young learners and adults.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Michael S.

The First Impression

Establishing rapport between the teacher and student is something that begins on the first day of class and it starts with a smile and welcoming words. In fact, the moment either the teacher or the student walks into class the teacher should be full of energy and have a happy demeanor. This simple, yet vital gesture helps to create an immediate, friendly and inviting atmosphere. If the students are too intimidated either by the teacher or their classmates they will not be as open to participating in class. Participation is paramount to a successful ESL classroom and more importantly to the individual students whose language development and success depend on fun and purposeful learning environment. The first day of class should only serve as an overview of the class goals, teacher and student introductions, and icebreakers and activities. This relaxed first day will help to build immediate rapport between everyone in the classroom and provide some useful insights for the teacher going forward.

Also Read: How I Accidentally Discovered My Passion For Teaching And Decided To Make It a Career


The introductions serve several purposes. Firstly, they allow students to learn about their classmates. Secondly, it is an opportunity for the teacher to learn about his or her students’ interests and hobbies. Thirdly, it is a way for the teacher to get a very basic assessment of each individual student’s ability with the English language. Fourthly, it gives the students immediate talking time and allows them to activate their current English ability, which can instantly start to build confidence.

Choice of Activities

Icebreakers and activities are a great way to build instant rapport among students and between the students and teacher. The teacher should take part in the opening-day icebreakers and activities because the students enjoy it when the teacher participates and laughs along with them. The icebreakers should involve the students interacting with one another either in pairs, groups or as an entire class. As with the introductions, the icebreakers are a chance for the students to activate their current English language ability. The icebreakers will give the teacher an opportunity to assess the students’ general fluency in the language. Here the teacher can also begin to start seeing the individual English abilities of the students and get an idea, which of the students are stronger or weaker. This could help for initial student paring for in-class activities as a strong and weak student should be paired together whenever possible. It’s important for the icebreakers to be free of teacher corrections and teaching moments as it makes it too formal and less fun and can serve as an instant discouragement to students. The interactions of the students and teacher along with the informal assessment information from this first day of class will help to set the tone and direction for the course.

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Positive Environment

While the first day is a non-teaching day, it is nevertheless, one of the most important days, because it help to establish rapport in the classroom and sets the initial tone going forward. It is vital that the teacher maintains a friendly and welcoming demeanor for the students on the first day and for the entirety of the course. The less intimidated the students feel in the classroom, the easier it will be to establish rapport and the more willing students will be to participate. The icebreakers and activities offer useful insight into the individual students’ English language abilities and how the students initially get along. These insights can be useful going forward especially for the initial few lessons or weeks in laying the bedrock for the foundation of rapport in the classroom. The more the students have a chance to participate and activate their English skills, the more encouraged they will become. As their encouragement increases the more open they will be to participating, speaking and the less worried they will be about making mistakes. All of these characteristics are imperative to students being successful with learning a foreign language and it begins with establishing rapport on the very first day.

Also Read: The Most Common Problems Students in Vietnam Face When Learning English

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