Students lacking confidence, being shy and or nervous are frequently mentioned by italki teachers as one of the biggest challenges they face when teaching online. Here are some tips on how to establish students’ confidence and deal with negative emotions. Thank you to the italki teachers who contributed these pearls of wisdom!
- Create a safe space
Before applying any pedagogies, the most important thing you can do is to create a safe space. Confidence in speaking is a problem for so many learners, and if they don't feel comfortable in your classroom, you cannot be an effective teacher. It's crucial to make it clear from the beginning that they will not be judged for their language or their opinions. For many students, this is their first time learning online. You must make sure they feel confident speaking about any topic and, most importantly, asking questions that they may feel silly for asking.
I remember several students suffering from a lack of confidence. One student that sticks out in my mind is an adult Spanish speaking student who works in IT. He learned mostly from listening to his favorite music, in this case, heavy metal, and did not have much experience speaking. I did what I always do to invite questions and put him at ease. He said he would try one more class. The next class we spoke some more and he said he would try another class. This continued until suddenly, we had been working together for over a year and a half. With students who are learning to converse and want to improve their fluency, I try to follow the 80-20 rule. The student should be speaking about 80 percent of the time and the teacher only 20. By allowing for this and creating clear expectations at the beginning your students will begin to open up and feel more confident.
-- by English Teacher James
- Start with easy topics
If students are nervous they easily get mental blocks and cannot think what they want to say. You can hear and see this, especially in the first lesson you have with them. Unless students are already confident in speaking, my first goal is always to make them feel comfortable and relaxed. I start with easy topics, so they don’t have to think too hard and find it easier to speak. Once they are relaxed they are much more able to say what they want without having to think too much. They feel happier with themselves (and you) for their immediate improvement.
-- by English Teacher Lui Hepworth
Most of my students are fast learners but they also struggle to speak fluently because of their shyness. Effective strategy consists of conversational lessons based on their hobbies or motivations. A desirable topic in which the student has plenty of knowledge will keep their spirits high enough to enjoy the class and learn new things at the same time.
-- by Spanish Teacher Olivia
- Play games and less pressure
Practicing grammar and vocabulary through games is an excellent method to reduce the level of stress of students, especially when they feel blocked. You should avoid practices that put a lot of pressure on them, such as direct questions or irregular verb tables, for example.
-- by Spanish Teacher Enrique Álvarez
- Be patient
Make sure your students don't feel under pressure. Try to get a relaxing atmosphere in which students feel confident, even if that means working on a lower level than the one the student is supposed to have. Little by little students get confident and ready to take any challenge. Speak clearly and repeat as many times as needed, even when the student is not asking for it, but you could tell they didn't quite understand, because of their facial expressions. Be patient and smile, and get the student to know it is fine to commit mistakes and make them realize they are the "owners" of the lesson, so it is you, the teacher, who must reach their expectations... and excel them whenever it is possible. Don't take anything for granted, and ask your students for their needs, goals and desires.
-- by Spanish Teacher Concha Marcen
As Spanish Teacher Berna FCO. RGUEZ. said, if I get the student relaxed, much of the work is already done; therefore, the first rule is "no stress" and the second rule is "relax".