As one self-confessed language addict once commented, there is no substitute in the language learning process for ‘real ego-crushing interaction’ with native speakers (1a), or in other words language learning is a humbling experience. Mistakes must be made! How can teacher
s make the experience positive, so that each bumbling experience is part of an upward cycle not a downward spiral? The key is to build confidence in the students.
Building confidence in students contributes to their overall well-being, improves classroom dynamics and the student’s motivation and success in the course. Why does a sports team love to play on their home ground? They generally do better there because all their fans are their supporting them, cheering them on. The teacher
of an english
class is in a position to set up the same type of home ground advantage in the classroom for their students.
How can a teacher
create a positive environment and build confidence in students? There are several ways to make students feel good about their learning experience. One way has to do with the teacher
’s attitude towards the students. By getting to know the students names and using them the teacher
can show that they are a valued member of the class. The teacher
can make a point to invite quiet students to participate in class activities or discussions. If a student’s answer is correct he can give genuine praise and if it is incorrect, he can at least acknowledge the effort they have put into the class discussion.
’s approach to teaching also influences whether the students will feel confident to try out the language. The teacher
should be enthusiastic about the subject and the student’s success. He shouldn’t be afraid to use mime, acting, or otherwise making a fool of himself in order to teach. The students have to make mistakes or look silly to progress and so if they can see from the teacher
’s lead that that is okay, they are more likely to jump in – boots and all!
Another confidence boosting activity a teacher
can use is to show the students how far they have come. He can set realistic goals, remembering that not all students will progress at the same rate, and provide positive feedback by highlighting what they have accomplished so far.
A subtle way to make students feel comfortable and confident is through the classroom structure. If possible, the teacher
should try to make a seating arrangement so that the students can make eye contact during activities or feedback, which shows respect for each other. If students feel like their contribution is appreciated they will be more likely to participate and have a go with the language.
Another aspect using the classroom structure to build confidence is establishing class etiquette. It may be helpful to create guidelines for showing respect to one another. For example, during class feedback if one student is speaking the teacher
can request that the other students put down their pens and listen.
In summary, the teacher
’s key to building confidence in students is to try to make his personality one that students warm to, his approach to teaching positive and to create a classroom environment where all are respectful and encouraging to each other. That way the students won’t be crushed by their language learning experience but they will have confidence to try out the language and be equipped to take it to the streets for some real interaction with native speakers ‘where mistakes are made, weaknesses found, and fluency achieved’ (1b).
(1a,b) Tim Ferriss (http://www.transitionsabroad.com/publications/magazine/0609/accelerate_language_learning.shtml)