Building rapport and confidence with students in ELT classes – A Summary

A PLN for ELT Professionals

Building rapport and confidence with students in ELT classes – A Summary

This summary was contributed by Tim Crangle on his blog and is reproduced here with his kind permission.


This evening’s chat was about building rapport and confidence with students in ELT classes. It was quite a lively chat with a number of threads going on. If my calculations are right, there were 283 tweets over the hour from 21 contributors. @marisa_c and @hartle were the most prolific, with 48 and 49 tweets respectively (full list of contributors at the end of the summary).


Firstly, it was a “double-barrelled” discussion theme which mentioned both rapport andconfidence building.

“Rapport” was defined as :

  • Interpersonal ability
  • Empathy – Building empathy with students. Relating well with them, being “in sync” and on the same wavelength
  • Team building – Building a community, team spirit, creating group dynamics
  • Acrostic Poem – R for Respect, A for Affinity/Affective, P for Person/ Personalisation, P for Passion/Patience, O for Openness, R for Recognition, T for Teacher (I shamefully admit I didn’t know what an acrostic poem was before tonight!)


What is the difference between rapport and confidence? They are very different notions but are interconnected. Summarizing a number of contributors, the general idea was that rapport can be built early on in the relationship with students and that confidence can only be built in the positive atmosphere that rapport can create. Confidence takes longer to build than rapport and it relates to perceived progress/learning.



Keep things fresh with novelty, variation, elements of change Level the playing field – focus on achievements from weaker students to balance those of higher performers. Let weaker students have key to exercise.
Learn, remember and use names. Remember things and cross refer student contributions Get students to experience ownership of their learning and gain pride in achievements
Listen and respond to others – try to go beyond “surface errors” Use English outside the classroom
Teacher must show and “echo” passion/enthusiasm and model behavior – projecting the kind of attitude they to want get back. Make students aware of things they do well – especially things they couldn’t do before. Focus explicitly on the learning process in order to make students aware of what they have learned.
Lower anxiety created by fear of negative correction, fear of making mistakes, being judged Get students to bring own materials, post/write questions during presentations for later discussion. Ask them to lead feedback.
Get students close to each other, make them collectively responsible. Do activities which have the students gradually open up to the class. Give students the chance to prepare or just think before speaking. Praise genuinely and correct sensitively.
Teacher should also be prepared to “open up” a bit with chitchat at beginning of lesson. Give students a few “tidbits” without revealing whole life story If you ask questions without one clear answer, the student will unlikely be wrong.
Work “extramurally”, blogging, socializing, using email as an individual “low pressure” medium Grabbing students for a quick walk and talk can work wonders!
Show imperfection – Make mistakes and not know answers
Do work that teacher’s want and need to do. Give language students need.
Teachers must be “energetic antenna” – holding and conducting the energy of the group


A number of issues/points were raised:

  • The Student vs Student as Client debate briefly flared up –there is enough material in that debate for at least another hour’s chat.
  • Can you be a good teacher without creating rapport?
  • Is it possible or even desirable to build rapport with every student
  • Can teachers build student to student rapport?
  • We all have an example of a “severe” teacher who taught us all a lot. In that case, is creating rapport really vital? Could one argue that being “severe” is a kind of rapport?
  • Creating rapport is difficult with extra large groups (90+). Also difficult with short summer school courses.
  • One “bad apple” in a group can make things difficult
  • Are « weaker students » those that are quieter or unable to speak?
  • Too much rapport building with younger learners can get you into trouble

IDEAS – How do you focus your first class with each group to be able to build rapport to maximum effect?

  • Plan activities which allow students to gradually open up.
  • Introduce the course, the work to do
  • Start the lessons on first day and let people get to know each other through the subject.
  • Names practice and usage
  • Group management – getting people to connect with their classmates
  • First impressions very important to create rapport
  • Take part in student activities
  • Start off with a ‘bang’
  • Adapt classroom layout


@esoldaveglasgow recommended Alan McLean « Motivated School » and  » Motivating Every Learner »

@marisa_c recommended J Hadfield’s book « Classroom Dynamics »

@hartle posted this link to her standard noticeboard at beginning of course

@sandymillin posted these links to edmodo has “has really helped improve rapport with (students) – continues things outside class”

@fionamau shared links to her blog posts about confidence : A Matter of Confidence part 1 part 2 and part 3


Good teaching, rapport & confidence building are closely linked – they must coexist. There are limitations to rapport building with certain types of learners, group sizes and course formats.

I’m sure I will have forgotten some important points which were made in the chat – please forgive me if that’s the case.

LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS (alphabetical):

@andyscott55, @chiasuan, @designerlessons, @DinaDobrou, @elawassell, @ELTExperiences, @esoldaveglasgow, @fionamau, @globalacademy, @hartle, @ljp2010, @Marisa_C, @nick_adams84, @PlanELT, @rschurter, @sandymillin, @Sharonzspace, @stangea, @theteacherjames, @tim_crangle, @YmnPearl

2 Responses

  1. […] An #ELTchat summary on “Building rapport and confidence with students in ELT classes. […]

  2. Muhammad Emdadul Haque says:

    For the 21st century learners, I think rapport building should be more emphasized.

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