Taking the time to get to know our learners is an important and enjoyable part of the first week of classes for most teachers. It's a great time to agree expectations, establish rapport and begin to co-construct a positive classroom community.
In his seminal text on Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, H.D. Brown (2007) suggests that rapport is:
"The relationship or connection you establish with your students, a relationship built on trust and respect that leads to students' feeling capable, competent, and creative." (p 253).
He goes on to suggest that teachers play an important role in setting up this connection by:
- showing interest in each student as a person
- giving feedback on each person's progress
- openly soliciting students' ideas and feelings
- valuing and respecting what students think and say
- laughing with them and not at them
- working with them as a team, not against them
- developing a genuine sense of vicarious joy when they learn something or succeed
- balancing praise and criticism (showing genuine 'pleasure' and 'concern')
- generating energy (not 'flamboyance' but 'focus' from the teacher)
But how do we get there?
Meeting New Learners
We all have our favourite 'go to' activities for getting-to-know learners but if you're keen to expand your repertoire, here are some links to some popular activities from the TESOL web:
- "A 4-Part System for Getting to Know Your Students" by Cult of Pedagogy
- A list of 100's of icebreakers and instructions, by Icebreakers.ws
- "Icebreaker Activities to foster relationship building" by Larry Ferlazzo and Edutopia
- "50 things to do in the first week of term" by EFLClassroom.com
- "ESL Warmers" by Simply ESL
- "Five things about me - Take my Hand" by Lesson Cloud
- "The A.R.M. Activity - Accept, Reject or Modify" by the British Council
- "Roll with Dice: Speaking games for question formation, etc" by Online TEFL
- Click HERE to see my latest 'go to' activity for needs analysis: - "Film Scenes"
TIP - Break bread together. Going for a coffee or planning a lunch with your class in the first week can be a great way to demonstrate your commitment to knowing your learners.
Planning for Learning
There are other factors at play in the classroom that will influence your ability to establish rapport with each and every student in your classroom. Here a few general readings to ponder as you plan your lessons with a new group of learners in mind:
How important is it that we let learners know 'why' they're doing what they're doing?
Willy C. Cardoso, shares thoughts on how to examine, practice and reflect on learning.
Good thinkers are not always fast thinkers.
ELT blogger, Nathan Hall, on 'processing, introversion vs extroversion'
Scott Thornbury examines the 'turning point' that all learners experience.
How does this inform our planning for learners as they move through the levels?
Are student questions more important than teacher questions?
Ramsey Musallam shares his 3 rules to spark learning in this inspiring Ted Talk.
Keen to explore the potential or limitations of L1 use in the classroom?
Check out Sue Swift's article debating the pros/cons.
29 Statements about Lesson Planning by Mike Griffin (@michaelegriffin).
Which statements would you champion or challenge? What might you add to the list?
TIP - Include lots of reflection and formative assessment opportunities in the first few weeks with a new class. Click HERE to see my own idea for reflection using post-it-notes and HERE for a list of terrific formative assessment strategies from Edutopia.
Please feel free to add your own ideas in response the questions below:
What are your top 3 favourite GTKY activities or icebreakers?
How do you foster classroom community and build rapport with your learners?
Which of the readings above really struck a chord with you?
Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts via the Facebook page or here on my blog!
This blog post represents the views and reflections of the author only and is not intended to represent the views of any institution.