4 Simple Steps to Help Build Your ELLs’ Confidence

A big factor in our students’ success is confidence.

When students are confident, they are much more likely to be interested. When students are interested…

  • They try harder.
  • They are more involved.
  • They listen better.
  • They don’t give up as easily.

When students lack confidence, they also usually lack interest. When they are uninterested…

  • They stop trying.
  • They don’t care as much.
  • They don’t usually participate voluntarily.
  • They don’t listen as well.
  • They often give up at the drop of a hat.

The most poorly behaved students are very often the weakest students, and even if they are not the weakest, they very likely perceive themselves as weak compared to others.

They think that it is so easy for everyone else, but so difficult for them.

They think that no one else has to work as hard as they do.

Most of the time, they would be wrong, of course, but the logic of children is often based on faulty evidence. That said, there is usually also an element of truth to their perspective. Children often compare themselves to the best in the class and the strongest students do usually have an easier time learning. Unfortunately, teachers are culpable for encouraging these types of comparisons by saying things like, “Wow, you’re so smart!” or “Why can’t you be like…” Learning really is just more difficult for some children and that can be really frustrating for them.

Helping to build student confidence is a tool in our classroom management toolbox. When we foster an environment where students succeed and are acknowledged for succeeding, student engagement improves drastically.

Unfortunately, as much as many teachers want to avoid being honest with themselves, it can be challenging to believe that some students really can succeed.

  • When some students have been driving a teacher crazy
  • When they give up whenever they are faced with anything they feel is difficult
  • When they sabotage the teacher’s efforts to help them
  • When they waste time, drag their feet, distract others and whine

It can be tempting to give up on them just as they have given up on themselves.

It is very easy to accept the view that the students have for themselves.

If we can separate our emotional response to these students with what is best for them, we will find that confidence is playing an extremely important part in their behavior.

It is possible to help these students start changing their mindset about themselves and about how we learn.

  • It may require some creative thought.
  • It may require some restructuring of our classes.
  • It may require believing in them when you’re tired and frustrated with them.

If you can build their confidence, you can build their interest.

If you can build their interest, you may just change their future.

So how can we help build the confidence of our students?

Here’s a 4-step framework I find very helpful.

  1. Set concrete, incremental, manageable goals.
  2. ​Make sure each child has to reach those goals individually.
  3. ​If they don’t get it the first try, they can try until they do.
  4. ​Celebrate their successes.

This is obviously just a start in building confidence with your students but it can be extremely effective over time.

Let me know what other ideas you have for building student confidence in the comments.

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