Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Daily Assignment #95: Body Language of Teachers

Our body language and expressions convey to students about how we think or feel about what they are saying or doing.  Body language/nonverbal communication includes:  facial expressions, eye contact, body movement, spatial distance, posture.  Sometimes we are not even aware of our body language and the messages we are sending to students.   Through facial expressions a teacher can communicate enthusiasm, warmth, assertiveness, confidence, expectations, feelings or displeasure.  Just the slight movement of an eyebrow sends a message to the students.  Using eye contact, or not, when a student is speaking sends another message.  It can mean I'm either interested in what you have to say or I'm not interested.  Direct eye contact can also communicate disapproval.   I  mastered "The Look" and used it a lot for classroom management.  As one student described it, "Linda does a scary look." No words are necessary.

Teachers communicate through how they stand and where, also in where they sit, e.g. on a desk, chair or stool, in walking around the room, use of arms, e.g. folding arms, throwing them up in the air (lol), pointing, leaning toward or away from students, hands on hips, etc...

When a student is speaking, leaning head or body forward sends the message that you are listening and interested.  When smiling frequently the message communicated is one of friendliness.  Maintaining eye contact sends the message that you are interested.  Crossed arms communicate an unwillingness to engage or defensiveness, while uncrossed arms communicates openness.  Becoming fidgety indicates a loss of interest.  So, leave that stack of papers alone when a student is talking.  Whatever you do, don't clench your fists.  That message is very clear and scary.  Frowning shows disapproval and that's okay, but not all day or you'll get frown lines.


Teachers can use all of these behaviors as  nonverbal behavioral management strategies.
Bottom line, teachers need to become much more aware of their body language so that we promote learning and not shut down student learning.

Consider having a peer observe and note your body language in 30-45 minute block of time.  In that way, you will be able to recognize the behaviors that you may need to foster or completely eliminate.

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Best Effort,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Daily Assignment #94: LAFF don't CRY

While researching Active Listening, I came across this great strategy, which includes Active Listening, for facilitating parent-conferences, especially difficult ones. The acronym LAFF don't CRY, (McNaughty, Hamlin, McCarthy, Head-Reaves & Schreiner, 2008), stands for:

L Listen/empathize
A Ask questions
F Focus on the issue
F Find a 1st step


C Critize people who aren't present
R React hastily and promise something you can't deliver
Y Yakety-yak-yak off subject, e.g. talk about oneself

After reading about this strategy, I realized how many other scenerios this could be used in, e.g. staff meetings,family gatherings.

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If you haven't already, check out my book: 70 Effective Teaching Strategies At A Glance

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday my next blog will be on Wednesday, November 30th.
Have a wonderful and safe holiday and don't forget to practice Active Listening. Most importantly, LAFF don't CRY.
Best Effort,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Daily Assignment #93: Listening Skills

In Daily Assignment #92 I wrote about "Teacher Talk".  In this blog, I am focusing on the listener, the students.  Research has shown that we remember 25-50% of what we hear.  That means if you are doing direct instruction for 10 minutes, students pay attention to less than half of your instruction.  This also applies to when teachers are giving directions.  Doesn't this explain a lot?  Bottomline, teachers need to make sure that they say the important stuff up front and talk less, they're not listening anyway.

We need to teach students to be better listeners.  The research, that I have read on this topic, indicates that the most important strategy for teaching students listening skills, is modeling by the teacher.  In the book, In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication, Dan Rothwell has identified 5 key elements for active listening.
1. Pay attention
  • Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message
  • Recognize that non-verbal communication also "speaks" loudly.
  • Look at the speaker directly
  • Put aside distracting thoughts.  Don't mentally prepare a rebuttal.
  • Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.
  • "Listen" to the speaker's body language.
  • Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting. 
2.  Show that you are listening
  • Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
  • Nod occasionally.
  • Smile and use other facial expressions.
  • Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.
3.  Provide feedback
  • Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear.  As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said.  This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
  • Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing.  "What I'm hearing is...", and "Sounds like you are saying..."
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points.  "What do you mean when you say..."  "Is this what you mean?  
  • Summarize the speaker's comments periodically.
4.  Defer judgment
  • Interrupting is a waste of time.  It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
  • Allow the speaker to finish.
  • Don't interrupt with counter arguments.
5.  Respond appropriately
  • Active listening is a model for respect and understanding.  You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting them down.
  • Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
  • Assert your opinions respectfully.
  • Treat the other person as you would want to be treated.
For older students, middle-high school age, I recommend putting these key elements on a chart, explaining the importance of them, in a few words, and, not only modeling them, but refer to them as often as possible throughout the school year.

You will find that these skills are not only useful between teacher-student interactions, but teacher-parents and colleague-colleague, as well as staff meetings, and personal relationships.

With the holidays coming up, you will have many opportunities to practice these skills with family members.  So, when you're sitting next to Uncle Harry or Aunt Edith, and listening to the same story you have listened to since your conception, take this opportunity to do active listening.  (No alcohol should be consumed during this experiment.)  As you will discover, active listening takes a lot of effort.  Hopefully, this experiment will help you to have empathy for your students as they struggle with developing this new skill.

Please share this link with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower".  Also, take a look at my book:
Best Effort,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Daily Assignment #92: Teacher Talk

Research shows that teachers talk 70-80% of the time during a typical lesson and students speak for 20-30% of the time.  No wonder we are exhausted.  It should be the other way around with teachers speaking 20-30% of the time.  However, we all know that there are lessons which require more direct instruction/ teacher talk.   Keep in mind the average learner's attention span is 10-18 minutes.  If you are teaching a 45 minute class, and you are talking from the beginning, just know your students have shut you off after the first 10-15 minutes. So, plan well.
We need to be more cognizant of how much talking we do and try to restrict our talking to vital moments during instruction.  If the teacher only talks during vital moments the students are more likely to listen because  they know that when the teacher talks it must be important.  Also, teachers need to be aware of the language and vocabulary they use, therefore modeling for students.
Our students need to talk more in class, of course on topic.  In this way, students have more opportunities to use language and vocabulary related to the topic and demonstrate their skills.  The teacher will also have another form of assessment.
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Best Effort,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Daily Assignment #91: 7 Steps for Effective Instruction

Researchers have found that to make instruction more
  1. Begin a lesson stating the objectives.
  2. Do a quick review of previous learning.
  3. Present new material in small steps, have students practice after each step.
  4. Give clear and detailed instruction and explanations.
  5. Provide a lot of practice.
  6. Check for understanding.
  7. Provide feedback and corrections.
This does take time, but you will notice an increase in students' understanding.  So, it is worth the effort.

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If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower".  
Also, take a look at my book:
Best Effort,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Daily Assignment #90: Just a Few Facts on Thanksgiving

A link for information on the Wampanoag's perspective:

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Best Effort,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daily Assignment #89: Adjusting Speech

Teachers adjust their speech patterns all the time for lots of reasons.  For more details watch this video.

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If you haven't already, take a look at my book:

Best Effort,