Building a rapport in an ESL classroom is vital to having a successful semester. It takes a lot of courage to speak in another language and if your students speak freely and often it shows they feel comfortable enough to participate in your class. As an ESL teacher if you have accomplished this magic element it will help turn an average class into a great class!
So how do you get the students talking? As the teacher you've got to be confident and comfortable enough to 'roll with the punches.' What this means is, as the adult, we need to steer the ship and act as a role model for our students.
What I have learned during my time teaching in Korea for ChungDahm is that students are like mirrors. If the teacher has energy, is enthusiastic and is not afraid to share their personal stories; then the students will reflect this and behave similarly. Of course, this is not always the case, but most of the time the kids follow our lead.
Since I started my teaching journey, I have learned 3 key things to build a great rapport with my students.
1. Personalize your Classes
This is "Tijana Teachers classroom" is what my students often hear. Having your own teaching style that is tailored to your identity as a teacher, goes a long way in being memorable. Creating a space that has been personalized makes students feel comfortable and feel sure that their teacher is confident in their abilities.
Personalizing does not only include decorating your classroom, it means as soon as the students enter they have an utmost respect for their teachers' rules and classroom and are aware of where they are and what is expected of them. Teaching that is tailored to your specific style allows your teaching methods to reflect in the students work, and this will make them feel like they are leaning something valuable from their teacher.
Once the students feel like they are learning model concepts from their teacher they will feel comfortable and want to participate and speak their mind in the classroom. Also, a teacher who is engaging and shares personal stories helps the students’ let their guards down. It is important to remember that you cannot expect what you don't do yourself.
2. Educate Yourself
Being interesting and engaging is the most important part of being a teacher. Going the extra mile and researching information about the class helps a great deal. A teacher who knows what they are teaching can inspire, entertain and provide feedback.
From my experience, the best classes I have conducted were the ones I came prepared and knowledgeable of the subject matter. A teacher who presents new ideas and evidence challenges their students to keep being curious. When I act out scenarios or lead with interesting facts with an exciting tone my students tend to raise their hands more often and are more eager to answer questions.
However, the information that you share should be relatable. The more a teacher understands the culture they are teaching, the more interesting and approachable they are. Students will feel comfortable to participate if they see that their teacher is not afraid to learn new things and step out of their comfort zone. A great method is to ask the students about their cultural events and traditions they partake in. They will open up and feel like they are partaking in teaching you as well.
3. Love What your Students LoveEvery culture has its own vices. In Korea, it’s K-pop and K-drama, anime and webtoons. Familiarize yourself with what your students hobbies and passions are. It is important to understand what media and information brings your students joy, so that you can relate to them.
Also, you could talk with your students before class starts or during break time. It will be surprising how quickly your students begin to talk and engage in your class if you do this. Students who feel like you pay attention to their everyday lives, usually are willing to speak more often in class discussions.
Additionally, attentiveness is a really important tool to have in the classroom. A teacher who is attentive and remembers what each student is struggling with, can be there to care for their students too. When a student needs encouragement or has improved, it is really important to take note of it and give them verbal affirmation.
I hope these tips help you with creating your classroom environment when you begin teaching abroad.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!