Building Rapport with Students A foolproof way using your own stories

(Reading time: 3 - 5 minutes)


Opening up to Students

Creating rapport with students is essential to keeping students happy and learning. An excellent way to build rapport with students is to create an image of you for them.

All Ages  Simplify ypur presentations by bringing the same characters up over and over.
Framing for Target Language presentations
Establishing a strong intro to Topic
Adults  Follow-ups to activities
Expressing interest in student answers and relating to the students
Teens  Set yourself against your students (I don’t understand this music. My music, through...) as the sumb adult
Hooks to charge up the pace and get attention in the lesson.
Kids  Basic training at the lesson
Particularly active acting out and miming ( I hate carrots!)

By Antoine Marcq Co-Founder and Director of Development and Marketing at English Connection 

First, consider some facts about yourself and ask yourself “What do I feel comfortable sharing in the classroom?” You are not an open book for your students. You are whatever you tell your students. Choose some pieces of your character that you are OK with them knowing about.

After you have done that, you are ready to formulate some ideas of what you are ready and willing to share with your students. In class, you will magnify these aspects of your character. If you like a band or a song, that band/song is now the best thing that ever happened to music. If you dislike a movie, that movie is now the beginning of the slippery slope that will lead to the end of all world culture.

Developing your “character” in this way for your students makes you relatable and understandable.

Different Ages, Different Strategies

How you use your depiction of yourself in class depends largely upon the age and ability of your students. Here are some ideas about how you might use them with different age groups:

Tools in a Silent Classroom

If you are getting no response or have very little connection to your students, throw out a story or a fact about yourself that you are comfortable sharing! The more you “open” yourself in this way, the lighter the atmosphere in the classroom will be. The relationship will be equally formal, but the students will not feel that formality, as they’ll simply feel a personal connection to you!

Telling your Stories

If you want to make a connection with your students, you need to ensure that they understand what you say. That means speaking in a way that they can understand.
To ensure that your students understand you, focus on:
Show the emotions you’re trying to impart
Word choice

Show Emotions

How you feel about whatever it is you’re talking about should be absolutely obvious to your students. You will show emotions through:

  • Intonation
  • Facial expressions and body movement
  • Speed of speech

Especially at lower levels, you want to keep the emotions simple. At higher levels the students will be able to understand subtlety, but at lower levels you should expect that they cannot and will not understand nuance.

Avoid nuance by focusing on one of these three key emotions during your stories:
Love it
Hate it
Utter confusion

If you choose to go outside of these emotions with your lower-level students, ensure that the emotion you are showing is very basic, easily understood through intonation, facial expressions and body movement, and speed of speech.

Word Choice

Your students will likely not know every word that you will use when talking to them. That is not a bad thing. The more they hear, the more exposure they get to naturally spoken language. Problems occur when you start using high-brow words that they do not understand.
When you speak, consider carefully what words you want to use.

With grammar, you have much more leeway. Generally, students will not analyze the grammar you use in your speech. If you use past perfect in a conversation with pre-intermediate students, they will still understand the story if you show emotions and if the context of your story is fully understandable.


Pausing during your speech cuts up whatever you’re saying into easily digestible parts. If you speak in a machine-gun fashion, as you might if you are trying to impart an emotion like excitement, make sure it’s for only a short time.

If you do not use pauses enough, your students will likely panic. They will latch on to a word or a phrase that they don’t know and then their worry will cause them to ignore whatever you say subsequently. You might as well be talking to a wall at that point, because they aren’t getting it.

A Good Exaggeration = a Great Story
Making your students connect with a story has less to do with honest assessment and more to do with simplification and directness. Your general dislike for opera evolves into a physical pain that you experience whenever you’re in earshot. Your respect for Eminem as an artist turns him into a musician on par with Mozart. Magnify and exaggerate your opinions and experiences to make them more memorable for your students! •

Reprinted with permission


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