How to Develop Rapport in an EFL /ESL Classroom

A good rapport between you and the students is essential if you are interested in improving their motivation, receptivity, and – of course – their enjoyment of the lesson.

So, what should you, as a novice EFL teacher, be aware of as it concerns developing rapport? Here are a few points worth considering.

The most important way to develop a good rapport is – empathy. Try to empathize with your students; put yourself in their position; talk to them and explain that you understand their learning problems; be understanding and patient at all times – even when you are at the end of your tether!

When communicating with the students, make sure that you know their names; make a seating plan: this will help you to learn their names quickly. Always maintain eye contact when talking to students – but don’t stare. Always speak in a polite, respectful tone, but don’t be afraid to raise your voice if you have to chastise someone for behaving inappropriately: your aim is to develop a good rapport, but at the same time – you don’t want to been regarded as a ‘push over’.

Don’t be afraid to crack a few jokes and laugh and smile when the occasion warrants it: you aren’t teaching in the nineteenth century – so lighten up a bit. Incidentally, avoid jokes of a sexual nature: this could cause you serious problems.

Teach with enthusiasm and passion: dull grammar lessons are not the way to develop a good rapport: actively involve your students in the learning process, and don’t be afraid to praise students’ comments, questions and good work: place an emphasis on participative learning. Another particularly effective way to develop a good rapport is to get the students to talk about themselves for a few minutes.

Here’s what an article (‘The Neuroscience of Everybody’s Favorite Topic’ – July 16, 2013) in ‘Scientific American’ has to say as it concerns talking about ourselves: “If you’re like most people, your own thoughts and experiences may be your favorite topic of conversation. On average, people spend 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves…” Apparently, the reason for this is simply that “it feels good.”

This method of building a good rapport will also be beneficial to the students: they will get to know a little bit about each other which will help in producing a friendlier classroom environment; however, do not allow them to talk about politics and religion.