When ESL students are asked to describe a favourite teacher or a teacher they feel they learned a lot from, they often describe someone who was kind, funny, or nice. In other words, good rapport is often the first thing that comes to mind. Establishing and maintaining a positive rapport with your students not only leaves a lasting impression on them, it also facilitates learning in the classroom.
How to Develop Rapport with your ESL Students
If students know that you care about them as individuals they are more likely to engage in the lessons you present. Here are a few approaches to consider:
- Ask your students about their lives outside of class and their interests. They might have a talent or passion that they enjoy talking to you about.
- Organize an extra-curricular activity for your students, such as a field trip or sports activity. This can provide an opportunity for your students to get to know you outside of the classroom.
- Ask your students about their first language and native culture, and make an effort to learn a little of both.
- Take time to share short stories with your students, and tell them about your life and interesting daily experiences.
- Be clear and consistent in your expectations of students, and avoid treating students differently. Make your policies clear (for example, consequences for late assignments, missed exams, inappropriate behaviour) and follow them consistently. Students are generally very conscious of how they are treated compared to others in the class. Any perception of unfair treatment can quickly destroy your rapport with them.
ESL teachers can have very busy lives with many hours spent in the classroom and many more hours spent preparing lessons and marking student work. Some days it is very difficult to find extra time to get to know your students as individuals, but making an effort to do so can pay dividends in the classroom, and the relationships you develop with students sometimes last a lifetime.
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