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Classroom Management: Building Relationships & Rapport with Your TESOL Students

Classroom Management: Building Relationships & Rapport with Your TESOL Students
Admin - Sep 01 2016

Every teacher dreams of an engaged class with minimal disruptions. For those of you wondering how to go about realizing this ideal situation, the answer is simple; relationship and rapport building. These two factors are especially important when it comes to teaching a second language. ESL students often find themselves in an unfamiliar environment, learning a foreign language. Bridging the gap and better connecting with students will certainly lighten the load. Not only will forming relationships bring out your students’ potential, but it goes a long way towards achieving a desirable classroom management situation. Developing a nurturing relationship built upon a foundation of trust will undoubtedly result in a positive learning experience that will leave a lasting impression upon your students.


As the cornerstone of any partnership, building trust among your class is a fundamental aspect of establishing rapport. Moreover, mutual respect is the key to the generation of any form of trust. The simplest approach to achieving this is by refraining from lecturing or talking down to students. Otherwise, it could lead to frustration on the part of students, which will undoubtedly be reflected in the form of disruptions and poor academic performance. A tried and tested approach is getting to know your students as individuals; talk to them to learn about their interests and hobbies outside of the classroom. Simply stated, treat students the way you wanted to be treated when you were in their shoes.



During the first few classes, get to know your students. Start off by introducing yourself and giving some background information about your interests and joys of teaching. Also, use this occasion to learn about your students; gather information such as their names and hobbies. Keep in mind that every student is unique and will have different needs that you should cater to whenever possible.


Article on Activities and Strategies to Develop Rapport: 


Manage Students’ Self-Esteem

During the formative years, we are all fragile, and maintaining outward appearances and image is crucial for the developing student. With insecurities and the desire for rebellion, it is a difficult phase in life. Public criticism of students in front of their peers will only serve to humiliate them, and often prove to be counterproductive. In such scenarios, students will rebel in an attempt to protect their dignity. This may make classroom management seem tricky; however, there is an effective approach; discipline students quickly and quietly. The best method for dealing with misbehaving students would be to diffuse the situation in a calm, even voice, or by using some humor. At times, even a subtle, stern look will accomplish the desired result without anything having to be said.


Body Language and Positive Reinforcement

Body language is a subtle technique that you could employ in order to increase students’ comfort level. Smile as often as you can, this display of affection demonstrates to students that you are delighted to see them. Remember, a teacher’s enthusiasm and energy resonates throughout the classroom; your passion will be contagious, leaving students eager for the lesson to come. Furthermore, pace around the classroom as you teach, your presence will serve to negate the intimidation factor and encourage interaction among students. In conjunction to the aforementioned strategy, incorporate hand gestures and eye contact to build familiarity and openness. Lastly, provide some positive reinforcement when students are on task and well-behaved. Students will appreciate the positive feedback rather than only being acknowledged under undesirable circumstances.


Listen to Students

Unsurprisingly, students desire for a sense of belonging. They want their voices heard and have an influence on classroom procedures. A great deal of mutual respect is shown by the teacher who is open to receiving feedback from her class. Engaging in classroom discussions about assignments, school policies, and grading schemes all serve well in providing students with a platform to have their inputs heard. This display of mutual respect shows that you care and demonstrates that their concerns are being taken into consideration. As stress in the classroom is mitigated, it provides a nurturing environment for all to flourish.



Storytelling is a powerful tool in any teacher’s repertoire. When used effectively, it is a device that will serve to humanize you. For example, an anecdote from your childhood would place you in an environment and situation that is unfamiliar to your students. However, it allows students to better relate to you due to proximity of age. Once students are able to better identify with you, building connections becomes easier. When using this technique, the best approach would be relating stories with a comedic tone, or one about a grand adventure. Incorporating hand gestures and dramatic pauses will only further serve to captivate their imaginations. Having a fun and easygoing class will have a profound impact on the learning experience.



Humor creates a positive climate that serves as the perfect icebreaker in the classroom. Entertainment and lighthearted jesting would ease all tensions and allow students to relax. When there is a joyful convergence of mind and soul, students can prosper. This is best achieved by teachers who are capable of laughing at themselves and incorporating humorous items into tests and assignments. However, it is worth noting that sarcasm could be misinterpreted and thus should seldom, if ever, be used. Laughter is the best antidote for reducing anxiety, and thus creates an environment capable of sustaining budding minds. 



Developing a relationship and building rapport with your students is of utmost importance when teaching an ESL course. The more familiar you become with your students, and vice versa, the more comfortable and relaxed the teaching environment becomes. Students learn best when they remove walls and are fully engaged in the learning experience. This is best accomplished through a variety of techniques, including; building trust through activities, humor, and storytelling. Throughout the process, place an emphasis on listening to your students’ concerns and address them in a fitting manner. Don’t be shy to smile often, and take every opportunity to humanize yourself. To allow students the best opportunity to learn and succeed, us teachers must put forth an honest effort to nurture the teacher-student relationship.

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