Rapport is defined as the relationship between the teacher and learners and between the learners themselves. Rapport is important in the English as a Foreign Language classroom because good rapport is needed to create an environment that is conducive to learning. We have many great tips for building rapport in the EFL classroom, to help you get started!
While there are many balls to juggle as a teacher teaching English as a Foreign Language, we argue that building rapport with your students is one of the most important. Of course, your knowledge of the English language and of theories of learning and teaching methodology is crucial too, but what good would all of that be without the interest of your students?
Being interested in your lessons is the most basic requirement for your students to be able to learn anything in any context, so it is important that you do everything you can to keep them interested in your lessons.
Easier said than done, you might say, especially if you are new to teaching or if you are not yet comfortable speaking in a room full of people. But have no fear, here’s our crib sheet to make sure your students are wide awake and engaged during your lessons so you can start collecting those teaching awards.
1. Fake it ’til you make it
Being nervous speaking in front of people is totally normal, but it is really awkward if your audience can see how nervous you are. If you are visibly nervous, try deep breathing exercises to calm yourself down. Be aware of your posture, body language, and any nervous behaviour you may have – such as pacing, wringing your hands, or saying ok all the time.
Stand tall, keep your shoulders back, make eye contact with your students, and don’t forget to smile. Soon you’ll feel more relaxed and be able to enjoy yourself in your lesson. Your students reflect whatever you are feeling, so if you are relaxed and comfortable, they will be too.
Read more: Skills You’ll Pick Up Teaching English
2. Make it personal
Personalisation is important in learning. Making a topic or language point relevant to your learners will help them remember the language, meaning that your lessons will be more effective.
How you can do this is by getting to know your learners. Make small talk with them and actually listen to what they have to say. Get to know their backgrounds, their personalities, their interests. All of these things will help you choose aims which suit your learners, plan lessons that resonate with your learners and make your teaching more engaging.
At the same time, this is a two-way street. This means you also need to let your students get to know you. You can do this by showing them photos, volunteering information, and telling anecdotes about your personal life. Not only will this help your students feel more comfortable in your lessons talking about themselves, but it will give you common ground for general chats in your lessons.
Read more: 5 Ways to Make Language Learning Meaningful
3. It’s all about balance
As teachers, we need to make sure our lessons run smoothly. This means we need to be in control of what happens in the classroom, which often depends on the behaviour of our students. As teachers, we may need to discipline our students if they are being disruptive. At the same time, we need to be friendly and open with our students so that they feel comfortable in the classroom.
The key to this is to find the right balance. You need to be friendly with your students, but not too friendly. You need to be strict with your students, but not too strict. Once you have found a happy balance, your students will feel comfortable in your class but they will also know what is expected of them and their classmates. They will understand appropriate behaviour and they won’t be disrupted in their learning.
Even though you are the teacher, you need to respect your students. This is something as easy as learning their names and making sure you use them during the class. This will show the students that you respect them and they are not just students to you, they are individuals – and don’t forget about the quieter students!
If your students can see that you respect them, they are more likely to respect you. This means that they will listen to you when you speak and they will trust that your teaching methods are the best way for them to learn English. This will make your lessons run smoothly and it’ll be easier to achieve your aims.
5. Understand your students
Each EFL class is different. Understanding this will help you know how to approach each class in terms of planning, which will make your lessons more enjoyable for your learners. Understanding your learners will show your learners you are teaching them as individuals. They will appreciate the time you spend planning lessons for them and this will get their attention.
Understanding your students will also make sure you treat your learners appropriately. If you are teaching adult learners, even if they are Beginner students, this does not mean you can teach them the same way you would your Young Learner classes. It also means that even if you get on better with some students than others that you don’t have favourites or treat some students differently from others.
Having good rapport in the classroom is vital for your students’ learning. It will also amaze you how much more enjoyable it will make your teaching. There is a huge difference between teaching classes you have a great rapport with and those you have a not-so-good rapport with – and that alone should be enough to make sure you focus on building rapport with your classes. But in a nutshell, rapport is what will take you from being a mediocre teacher to being an exceptional teacher.