Building Rapport

Classroom Management
Building Rapport

Building rapport with a class is a fundamental part of teaching. In this video, I give you five hints and tips on how you can do this. I hope that they are helpful whether you are teaching face or face or online.


What makes a great teacher?
If you think about what makes a great teacher, it’s difficult to define or pin down. It might be that it was someone who was kind or funny, knowledgeable or caring. All of these things add up to having a great rapport with your class. I’m Jo Gakonga from and in this video I’m going to look at how you can build that rapport to make your lessons more enjoyable and memorable for both you and your learners.

Teaching is a lot about people skills, I think. You have to know your subject, of course, but also have to connect with your learners and engage them. If you can do this, you can motivate and inspire them. Remember that no one can learn while they are asleep. So, here are my top five tips…. Are you sitting comfortably?

1. Physicality
Let’s start with an easy one. Your body language and attitude. There is nothing more uncomfortable to watch than another person feeling very nervous in front of you and if you look like this (mime) as a teacher, learners find it hard to relax. Quiet confidence is infectious and you need to project this. But, you say to me, what if I’m really nervous and don’t feel very confident? You can definitely fake it until you make it here- shoulders back and down, open body language (no folded arms) take a deep breath, make eye contact with learners and Smile!! You can practise this in front of a mirror or record yourself. You might have butterflies inside, but your learners don’t need to know this and it’s especially important online, I think- you probably need to be even bigger in your expressions to get over the small screen effect.

The other thing here is that although you don’t have to be all singing all dancing, language learning can be a long, boring road and you need to keep them engaged so try to be enthusiastic and upbeat- give them some of your energy and you’ll probably find that it’s reciprocated.

2. Watch your language
We’ve looked at what you look like- now how about what you say? We can break this down into a few points. The most important? Think about being kind – try to be empathetic as your learners miss their articles or past tenses for the umpteenth time. This isn’t easy for them. Be supportive and look for opportunities to give genuine and specific praise (not just a generic ‘good’).

Next- Beware of trying to be humorous using jokes, especially sarcasm or puns, and especially at lower levels- remember that their language is limited and if they don’t understand, it’s not funny. Finally, make sure you’re not hogging the talk- you don’t have to be in the spotlight. Learners will be more engaged if you give THEM something to do, and it’s better for their language development, too.

3 It’s all about them
OK- tip number 3 is to think about your learners. You need to like them if you want them to like you and this has to be genuine -fakery shows. At the very most basic, learn their names quickly and use them.

Get to know something about them- use personalised topics in class or ask them questions about their lives (obviously within the bounds of not being intrusive!) and remember things about them to follow up on (make notes if you need to) - "Oh Paulo, how was your mother’s visit last weekend?" Find out about what they are interested in- particular music, activities, places –or what they want to talk about and devise lessons around these things sometimes.

Finally, listen to the answers and language they give you in class, not just for the grammatical accuracy or lexical complexity, but for the content and respond to it in a real way. Moving on.. Tip number 4

4. But it’s a bit about you
My fourth tip is really the flip side of tip number 3. You are trying to get to know them as people, so tell them a bit about yourself, too. I don’t think that you should do this too often and you might want to be more circumspect about this if you are teaching children, but learners knowing something about you as a person and not just their teacher helps to create a bond. If you are talking about family, for example, you might bring in a picture of yours, or if you have an interesting hobby or a particular interest, this is great fodder for a language lesson.

5. Offer good teaching
Last, but most definitely not least, my final tip is probably the one that I think is the most important. You need to teach them well. However much they like you as a person, the novelty will soon wear off if they realise that they’re not learning much. Learners tend to warm to teachers who they see as competent, professional and well prepared, so make sure that you have crafted a great lesson for them, with sound and appropriate aims. That you have thought about the kind of problems they will have and can answer their questions. Consider how you will keep their attention with a variety of activities and plenty of interaction. Make sure your materials and slides are attractive and clear. As with most things in life, the more effort you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.

So there you have it, my top tips for generating and building a great rapport with your class. I hope that you’ve found this helpful and you can find lots more classroom management tips in my free CELTA Toolkit at
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