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Building Rapport by Knowing Students’ Names and Interests

Building Rapport by Knowing Students’ Names and Interests | ITTT | TEFL Blog

No matter how well-prepared a teacher may be, every classroom is different, which means each student is different, and each teacher needs to be able to adjust and be able to establish rapport with the new class. For some teachers, working in a foreign country may cause them to feel uneasy; however, a teacher needs to overcome this feeling to be successful in the classroom. Indeed, building rapport with all students will help. Although this is a continuous process throughout the term, the key to establishing a friendly learning environment starts on day one. Thus, the best way to build rapport is to know the students’ names and interests by the end of the day or week (depending on class size).

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Learning Students’ Names: Strategies and Techniques

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

Learning Students’ Names: Strategies and Techniques

One way to build rapport is to learn the students’ names. First, teachers will need to look through rosters and become familiar with the pronunciation of a student’s name. This should be common sense for teachers, especially ones who are going to teach in a country where they have little to no knowledge about the customs in the country. For example, mispronouncing a name in some countries will automatically result in a student losing respect for the teacher. Teachers can ask other teachers or use the internet. Two helpful websites are and When one goes to the site, one will see a place to type in the student’s name. Then, one clicks on “pronounce” for the computer to articulate the name. For example, a common German name is Jurgen. In English, the “J” would be hard, as in “joker,” but in German, it is not. Instead, the “J” becomes a “Y” sound, such as “your.” This is a way teachers can learn names on their own.

Also Read: The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program: All You Need to Know and How to Apply

Another way to learn the students’ names is while finding out more about the students’ interests, the other way to build rapport. Icebreakers do this. One icebreaker (I’ve used) is the “Ball Game.” The teacher starts by tossing the ball to a student and asking him or her a question. These can be imaginative questions, such as “would you rather have the ability to fly or the power to read minds?” or factual, as in “what is your favorite color?” “What do you like to do for fun?” The student then tosses to another student and asks the same question. Eventually, the ball is returned to the teacher. Then the game continues so that more is learned about each student and the teacher.

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Depending on the class size, teachers should be able to learn names in a few days. During classes, calling on students after asking questions will help learn names as will calling out names when creating groups. By doing these, teachers are communicating respect, getting all students involved, and recognizing all equally. Finally, after teachers have learned the students’ names, they should greet them when they arrive and say goodbye after class. Establishing rapport is crucial, and the best time to do it is within the first few days by getting to know the students.

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