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.
First, consider some facts about yourself by answering the questions on the “Opening Up Worksheet.” Note that none of these topics will be considered cultural or social taboo by students.
After answering these questions, 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. Inside jokes will form, and you’ll be able to reference people and things with which the students are already familiar.
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:
|All Ages||· Simplify your 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/Tweens||· Set yourself against your students (I don’t understand this music. My music, though…) as the dumb adult
· Hooks to change up the pace and get attention in the lesson.
|Kids||· Basic framing of the lesson
· Particularly active acting out and miming (I hate carrots!)
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
How you feel about whatever it is you’re talking about should be absolutely obvious to your students. You will show emotions through:
- 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.
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!