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Building and Maintaining Rapport in the ESL Classroom

Building and Maintaining Rapport in the ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

A major consideration for any teacher is going to be building and maintaining rapport.

The importance of rapport is that within our communicative activities we're asking the students to talk to each other and if they feel comfortable with each other and with us, then that interaction is much more likely to be useful.

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So how do we actually build and maintain rapport?

One approach is to consider two stages of the teaching we are involved in. The first stage could be called “the start of the course” and the second stage called “throughout the course”. Considering the first stage, to help build rapport at the start of the course, it's very useful if we ask the students to create a name card and to make that name card visible to everyone. We should encourage everyone to use names as often as possible. As the teacher you should use names when asking questions. (Remember to put the name after the question rather than at the start, so that everyone has to be prepared to answer).

Secondly we need to try to do some ice breaking activities that will allow the students to interact with each other and perhaps give a little bit of information about themselves. Again, the activities should maximize student to student interaction and the need to ask and give their names.

Once we move into the course itself there are a number of techniques that we can use to help maintain rapport so that students are comfortable with each other when doing communicative activities. One of the main ways to do this throughout the course use pair work as often as possible or indeed small group work that allows for interaction to take place whenever possible. Secondly be sure not to let any single student dominate student talk time in the classroom. This can be very destructive to overall student talk tie if one student is allowed to dominate. Asking other students questions by name is a useful way to stop this. Thirdly allowing students to correct each other will often help to maintain the rapport within the class. It is important that students feel comfortable with peer feedback.

Finally, try to personalize all activities wherever possible. Quite often you will be taking worksheet activities from course books. If you take the activity and photocopy it you can then white out the names of people given within those activities and substitute those for the names of people in your class. This will have personalized the activity for your class then that will help to build rapport within the class, often causing some amusement.

Many of you will now be teaching online and quite often these lessons may be one-to-one. In this situation having rapport with your student is absolutely vital. Get to know as much as possible about your online students’ hobbies and interests as soon as you can and integrate this information into your classes.

As with any teaching relationship, meaningful praise will go a long way to help build rapport. Try to praise appropriately and often.

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