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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