We know that building rapport with students is fundamental if we want to get the best out of them. Establishing positive student-student and teacher-student relationships also helps create a positive classroom atmosphere which in turn leads to more effective learning.
How can we build positive relationships?
- Show interest
- Show respect
- Share responsibility for the learning process
- Make learning brain-friendly (realistic, attainable objectives; scaffolding; relevant…)
- Provide choice
- Show we care
This is an activity to help build rapport and create a positive classroom atmosphere which addresses all of the above. I do it at the start of the school year but it can be done at any time, especially if you see a need for students to sit back and reflect on their personal situation and/or what is happening in class (and how they can help change the situation.)
Step 1 Reflection
- Students write down their passions and interests (1)
- Students reflect on their strengths and weaknesses related to learning English (2,3)
- Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses they identified, students make their objectives for the term, thinking about what they need to focus on to be the best they can (4)
- Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses they identified, students think of ways they could help their classmates be the best they can (5)
In this step students reflect on the reality of their situation and ways of making me progress (especially in the areas where they are not so strong.) Ideally they create objectives linked to their interests and passions, making learning more personal, relevant and motivating.
Step 2 The Challenge
Students do a mingling activity to find at least 5 classmates they have something in common with. Depending on the level of your students you may want to pre teach some expressions they can use or provide them with a simple script they can refer to.
*Remind them to note down their answers to feedback to the class.
A: I like/I love… What about you?
B: I like/love…
A/B: So we both like/love…
A: I am good at…. What about you?
B; I am good at …
A/B: So we are both good at…
B: I am not so good at… What about you?
A: I am not so good at…
A/B: So neither of us are good at…
A: To be the best I can, I am going to… What about you?
B: To be the best I can, I am going to …
A/B: So, to be the best we can we are both going to…
A: To help my classmates be the best they can, I am going to… What about you?
B: To help my classmates be the best they can, I am going to …
A/B: So, to help our classmates be the best they can we are both going to…
In this step the objective is for students to share their information in order to learn more about their classmates and build rapport. They may be surprised that someone in the class they don’t have much of a relationship with actually has more in common with them than they imagined. Also students who may have struggled to come up with strengths and weaknesses/objectives have the opportunity to hear some examples which might also apply to them (and which they can add to their own Action Plan)
Rather than simply ask students to share their information (which they probably won’t be jumping for joy about), make it into a challenge e.g “find at least 5 different people who have something in common with you in the 5 categories.” or “find someone who can help you with the thing(s) you are not so good at” “find the person who has the most things in common with you” Now they really do have a reason to listen!
Step 3 Discussion
In this step students report back their findings; you can ask everybody to contribute one thing, ask for volunteers or choose students randomly depending on class dynamics/timing etc…
The objective here is to promote empathy and bonding. By highlighting the fact that (maybe surprisingly) there are classmates who have common interests, weaknesses and strengths and that we all have something we can share to help each other, we are hopefully on the right track to building rapport and creating that positive classroom atmosphere we all long for…
*Remember to get students to review their Action Plan regularly to check they are working towards their objectives and remind them that an Action Plan is not static, it is constantly evolving as we achieve our goals and set new goals.