Helping a student to advance in their language learning activities normally depends upon how confident they are in actually using the skills that they are learning. Children at school and college tend to build their own self esteem and confidence levels through academic achievements, which most will take with them into the workplace. As we get older however, learning new skills such as languages becomes harder to achieve and this can knock an older, or adult student’s confidence.
My students tend to fall into a mix of ages from school age, mid-to-late teens, through the early twenties and all the way up to forty or fifty years old, and they are all learning English for different reasons. Because of this, I regularly come across those either less or more confident in their abilities than others. Although the techniques I use to encourage all of my students are the same, I have to use them differently depending upon the age range and levels of self esteem. There is a great book called 'Inspiring Active Learning' which calls itself a complete handbook for today's teacher which is full of tips and techniques for confidence building. Most of the ideas the book describes are probably used every day in most classrooms, but as teachers we tend to do these things automatically, probably without actually realising what we are doing.
Here is my take on confidence boosting tips I have learnt from books, working in classrooms, as well as in management and leadership roles in business.
Firstly, be enthusiastic. Show enthusiasm for the subject that you teach, be enthusiastic about the learning opportunities for students and about their learning goals and achievements. Have enthusiasm for each and every lesson. Enthusiasm is contagious and your students will be more confident in what they can achieve if they are looking forward to your lesson. Most of all, do not be apathetic, for this will result in unhappy, disengaged and unmotivated students.
ABS - Always Be Smiling. Smiling shows that you are positive and approachable, smiles also inspire others and show them that you are a confident leader.
Encourage your students to participate. As a teacher you have to make sure to understand study relationships and group dynamics in a class. A great way to do so is to encourage everyone to participate. Start this off from the start of the course, so that students know they will all get called on. Also, giving students the opportunity to be in control of the lesson content, (to make some of the decisions) can help to build their confidence in both you as a teacher and the class. For example, let your students choose conversation topics, they will be more confident to participate if they are studying something that they like and are interested in. If you are attempting to teach a grammar point or specific vocabulary, give your students a range of topics to choose from, but ensure the list contains topics that will deliver the required learning points.
There is always good to be said in any situation. Positivity beats negativity every time, so if a student gives you an answer to a question and it’s wrong, point towards another interesting fact or highlight a misunderstanding which can help others in the group. You may actually stumble upon a good example of some other grammar point entirely. Find the positive issue and make a point of highlighting it, as well as correcting the error in a positive way.
Deal with problems. Problems eat into confidence, so get your students to air their issues and openly tackle them head on. Nothing makes a student more confident than helping them to understand something that they previously thought was impossible, or to openly use language that they had thought was way beyond their capabilities. Achievements build confidence, so help your students achieve in every way possible.
On a final note, make sure that you as a teacher are enjoying what you are doing, because despite however hard you try to hide it, if you aren’t happy or confident about what you are doing, you can never encourage others to be happy and confident about what they are learning.