English teacher guide: 7 tips for boosting student confidence

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“This is never going to work! I’ll never remember all of this!” or even, “Why am I even trying?” Have you ever heard your students say this kind of thing? If so, then they may need your help to boost their self-confidence.

Possessing a good level of self-confidence is important when learning. You’ll find that every student has a different level of confidence and it isn’t directly linked to their ability. They don’t have to be the brightest or the most successful person to be self-confident. It’s about believing in themselves and their abilities and adopting a positive mental attitude in their learning.

If you have identified some learners who lack self-belief, try these top tips for boosting your students’ confidence levels…

1. Praise their efforts

This may sound obvious, but sometimes the progress made on a learning journey can be forgotten. So praise your students for what they did well and when you’re correcting their work remember to tell them what they did right, not just what they did wrong. If your students can recognise that they are progressing, it will help them to be motivated to keep learning – no matter what their pace is.

2. Avoid correcting every word in free speech

It’s important to correct students’ mistakes but if you correct every single one, then their confidence will suffer, as they will feel they’re making too many errors. Instead, make necessary corrections – and remember to emphasise their strengths – but try not to interrupt too much during performance activities. It’s better for students to let go of their inhibitions and try to speak in English.

3. Ask them about their goals

Young pupils may be learning English as part of their standard education requirements, but acquiring a new language can let their minds roam. So ask them what they want to do with their new skills – and help them get there. This will provide great motivation for lessons. If your learners are older, they will have specific goals they are aiming for – again, plan lessons that help them strive for language learning success and remind them of their progress. For example, start a lesson by telling your students that today they will learn how to check into a hotel. Finish the class by saying, “Congratulations! Now you’re ready to check into any hotel!”

4. Encourage them to ask questions

If learners continue not to understand something, they’ll remained puzzled by the tasks they are set. Encourage them to ask questions when they don’t understand. Not only will this give them solutions, it’ll help them gain a sense that they are taking responsibility for their own learning. Being able to move on to the next level will do wonders for their self-confidence.

5. Give them a chance to teach you

We’ve previously talked about using subjects that your students are interested in to fuel their appetite for learning English. These include using songs with English lyrics and popular movies and movies and TV shows. It’s highly likely that your students will know more about these subjects than you, so let them be the teacher in the classroom. For example, say you want to get them to talk about Beyoncé, then say to them: “I know nothing about Beyoncé, so you’ll have to tell me all about her.” Once you can get your students talking about your chosen subject, turn it into an English learning exercise by asking your students to describe her, to talk about her songs and movies and to reveal what they like about her, and so on.

6. Use visuals

Visual prompts like household items, flashcards, posters and photographs stimulate learners and help them if they are struggling to find a word. For example, if a student has been asked to tell a story to the class, they’ll feel more confident if they have the pictures they can follow along with. Visual items can also help learners spark conversation with confidence and even add to their vocabulary.

7. Instil habits and repetition

By encouraging your students to practise their English and repeat phrases, they’ll become so familiar with the language that they can speak it with increased confidence. A good place to start is by teaching them essential phrases that they will use, such as: “Where is the toilet?”, “Have a nice weekend” and “Where can I get something to eat?”

Once these phrases come easily to them, they will feel confident using them outside the classroom. Remember to keep adding new phrases to the mix so that they continue to learn English with confidence.

If you would like to read more tips and support blogs for English language teachers, visit our English Teaching section here

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