As the basic function of language is communication, a language classroom should provide the students with ample opportunities to establish enough communication with both each other and also the teacher. With this intention in mind, the teacher is supposed to develop and maintain an excellent rapport in the ambience of the classroom. This article aims at shedding some light on how to develop an ideal rapport in an English classroom.
In the first place, if the educational framework and constraints allow for it, the teacher can set the chairs in the classroom in a semi-circle or fully-circle format. This format allows the students to maximise their interaction with each other, for instance, by having eye-contact. On the other hand, there isn’t any first or last row of chairs which could interpret authority among the students. Also, both the students and the teacher can have circulation in the atmosphere of the classroom. They can see each other’s faces, greet each other and use their body language to interact with one another.
In addition, the atmosphere of the classroom and even the appearance of the teacher should not be too formal. Otherwise, the students do not pluck the courage to socialise and break the ice with their peers. It should be noticed that an excessively high level of formality will make the students more stressed and reluctant to voluntarily take part in the class activities. In this case, the teacher is expected to put himself in the students’ shoes. This empathy does help him to create a more supportive and promising atmosphere.
To establish an excellent and supportive rapport, the class atmosphere should be as stress-free as possible. When the students are constantly compared and contrasted with each other in a critical and judgmental manner, they automatically develop competitive attitudes towards each other, which is per se a major hindrance to the development of rapport. For example, according to Brown (2007), the students should work with each other, not against each other, and also they should laugh with each other, and not at each other.
The other important point is to help the students to develop a sense of belongingness to their own class and classmates. While we are on the subject, cooperative learning can encourage the students to develop that sort of camaraderie, which is absolutely essential. When it comes to cooperative learning, the teacher’s role becomes so delicate particularly in terms of assessment. If the teacher shows even a tinge of discrimination among the students, they will lose their interest in maintaining a proper rapport with their peers.
Dividing the entire class into some small groups can optimise cooperative learning. However, it should be noted that even the small groups should not develop hostile attitudes towards each other. The students, in their groups, can be given some projects to fulfill. They are supposed to have maximum cooperation with each other to be able to handle the tasks in their project successfully. In this case, they are not assessed individually, but collectively and in their own groups. As a consequence, they should try their best to work in peace and harmony with each other.
To be more precise, a criterion-referenced approach to assessment (as opposed to norm-referenced assessment) is to be put to use. In this type of assessment, the students are not compared with each other, which may cause hostility and antagonism among them. Instead, there are some criteria that should be met by the students to indicate their success or failure in the course.
In terms of cooperative learning, it should be added that all of the class activities should be performed in a mutual trust and respect among the students and the teacher. The students should not seek their success in the failure of others. This camaraderie is even more strengthened when the students’ interaction goes beyond the English language. For instance, they can extend their rapport to other milieus not just necessarily restricted to language classes. They can have their interactions in the form of English when they go out on a picnic, discuss the challenging parts of a movie they all see, and so on and so forth.
On the whole, the teacher is supposed to instill the following thoughts into their students in one way or another:
- Let’s put our heads together.
- In unity, there is strength.
- It takes two to tango.
- A friend in need is a friend indeed.