5 Tips For Building Rapport In The EFL Classroom

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Rapport is defined as the relationship between the teacher and learners and between the learners themselves.

Why is developing rapport important

Creating 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. 

While there are many balls to juggle as a teacher, 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?

The role of rapport in motivating students to learn

Being interested in lessons is the most basic requirement for students to be able to learn. It is important that you do everything you can to keep them interested in your lessons.

Research¹ has shown that high levels of student-teacher rapport contribute to successful learning outcomes, by increasing motivation and increasing participation. Good rapport addresses the need for belonging, while the teacher is able to promote independence and reward competence. This naturally increases intrinsic motivation

What’s more, good relationships between students and teachers have been shown to help students cope with boredom more easily. Their level of engagement increases and so does their interest.

But that’s easier said than done!  Especially if you are new to teaching or 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.

How to build rapport with students

1. Fake it ’til you make it

Being nervous speaking in front of people is totally normal. But it’s 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. 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: Transferable Skills For TEFL Teachers

2. Let’s get personal

Personalisation is important in learning. Making a topic or language point relevant to your learners will help them remember the language. As a result, 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.

Choose aims which suit your learners, plan lessons that resonate with your learners and this will make your teaching more engaging.

At the same time, this is a two-way street. You 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.

Don’t feel the need to take on a fake persona as a teacher. Be yourself, and let your students get to know your personality. Don’t be shy to make a joke or two – as long as they’re appropriate!

Read more: 5 Ways to Make Language Learning Meaningful

Students with good rapport in the EFL classroom laughing with each other.

3. It’s all about balance

As teachers, we need to make sure our lessons run smoothly. 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’re 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. 

4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Find out what it means to me!

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.

Read more: The Importance Of Learning Names In The Classroom

If your students can see that you respect them, they are more likely to respect you. 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. Students who feel their teachers have their best interests at heart are more likely to feel more relaxed in class, which leads to better participation, higher motivation and better learning outcomes.

This will make contribute to making your lessons run smoothly and it’ll be easier to achieve your aims.


Tips for how to get your private ESL students talking e16659909197740

5. Understand your students

Just like a box of chocolates, every 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 them you are teaching them as individuals.

Understanding your students will make sure you treat your learners appropriately. If you’re 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 means that even if you get on better with some students than others that you can’t have favourites or treat some students differently from others.

Rapport in the online classroom

Even though the online classroom may be quite different from that of a physical classroom, the way to build rapport is the same. But, because of the nature of online learning and remote classrooms, rapport is possibly even more important. Just remember, whatever you would do in a classroom, you should do in a remote classroom.

Examples of good rapport in the classroom

How can you see if there is good rapport in your classroom? 

  • Your students are relaxed.
  • They aren’t shy to talk (in English) and make mistakes.
  • They make jokes with each other, and you.
  • They ask questions without worrying they might be stupid questions.
  • They participate in class. 
  • They talk to you about topics or issues not related to your lessons.

These are just a few tell-tale signs that the affective filter is low in your classroom, and your classroom rapport is good.

Having good rapport in the classroom is vital for your students’ learning. Plus, it will 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 remember, rapport is just the foundation for excellent classes. With established rapport you can build on this basis and carry out brilliantly effective lessons with good planning and great resources. Rapport essentially sets the stage for learning.

Rapport is what will take you from being a mediocre teacher to being an exceptional teacher.

¹ Zhang, Y. EFL learners’ boredom coping strategies: the role of teacher-student rapport and support. BMC Psychol 11, 397 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-023-01446-2

[accessed 21 November 2023]

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