I once was given a class of children
for a summer workshop. One of the children
in particular was a regular student of english
. His parents kept sending him to classes as they had high hopes for him. This student however, was very shy and was doing poorly in most of the lessons. My boss told me to pay special attention to him and help him enjoy the learning process. I was at first a little worried, but hoped I could be the one to help build his confidence and joy for learning.
I started the workshops and was surprised when I met this little boy. He said hello to me and had such a beautiful smile. But when it came time to start the class he was a different boy. In the first lesson he would barely speak. I was glad to have a paper with the student's names and ages as I could hardly hear the sound of his voice. But as the lesson progressed I saw that he was actually a very smart and bright little learner.
I realized all he needed was a little confidence boost. It was not like he was unable to learn, I could see that he understood the lesson very well, but when it came time to acknowledge this verbally or in written form he would hold back. Organizing the seating arrangements, I made sure he was sitting close to me for all writing activities. While the other children
were quick to understand my instructions and respond by writing and coloring, he would listen then appear to not know what to do.
For the first few lessons I had to keep a close eye on him, coaxing him, encouraging him, giving him a double dose of praise for every effort.--He responded tremendously! Before I knew it he wasn't the slowest in the class anymore. He was right on top along with the fastest, brightest students. Every time I gave him a chance, he was quick to show me how much he knew. When his team would win a quiz or a game I could see the wheels turning in his mind saying, “Yes, I can do this! english
is fun and I love it!”
When I look back to that summer workshop I realize that it was a turning point in my experience as an esl teacher
. Seeing firsthand what that extra bit of confidence did for that student, encourages me to continue to inspire each student that crosses my path.
The easiest way to build confidence in students is through sincere acknowledgement and praise. Acknowledge your students, show interest in their personal progress, let them know that you are there to guide
them along the path of learning. Praise their efforts and not just the end result. Pay attention and reward their efforts accordingly. Your students will be different, and just because one is not as smart as another does not mean that they haven't worked just as hard. Praise students in front of the class and also in private. It can be in a written note of encouragement, or just a few sincere words at the end of a class.
Set them up for success. One of the reasons students lack confidence is because they feel or believe that they cannot achieve. Whether this is real or imaginary is not important, what is is that you must engineer the lesson so that they can achieve. You could do this by pairing them up with a stronger student for pair work or competitive games. Being part of a “winning team” is a boost for anyone. Having a stronger student as a partner can also make a difference if the stronger student is willing to help encourage and bring the other to his/her level. Another way to encourage success is to give different tasks to the different levels of students. Using the same material, stronger students are given more complicated tasks while lower level students are given shorter and simpler assignments.
Another way to build confidence in students is to use their specific skills or abilities in the classroom. If your shy student is very good at organization, ask him/her to be in charge of the papers and exercise sheets and distributing them. If one student loves public speaking, give him a chance to come up to the board and explain a lesson point to the class. When students feel valued in the classroom it enhances their confidence, and you can use this to encourage them in their weaker areas as well.
As students' confidence begins to grow you will start to see a change in the classroom as well. Lessons will become easier to plan and carry out. Students will become comfortable and independent in their learning abilities. Having confidence will bring back the joy of learning. Imparting this to our students is a must for every esl teacher