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9 Tips on Nonverbal Communication in the Classroom

9 Tips on Nonverbal Communication in the Classroom

Bernadette Simpson | Teaching

Tip 1: Understand your own culture, values, and nonverbal behavior

Before you can understand the behavior of a student or person from another culture, it’s important to first understand your own culture, values, and nonverbal behavior. Teachers can learn about their own culture and nonverbal language by traveling to other countries, talking to new immigrants, reading books, or even by videotaping and reflecting on your own use of nonverbal language.

Tip 2: Different learning styles exist in different cultures

Be aware that there are different learning styles in different cultures. Not all of our diverse students will make eye contact, participate in class, question the teacher, or speak unless spoken to. Do not reprimand students without first understanding the cultural implications of their behavior. They may not mean what you think they mean!

Tip 3: Learn Non-Verbal Cues in Other Cultures

Learn about the nonverbal behavior of the cultures represented in your classroom. This will enhance not only your interaction with your students but with parents as well.

Tip 4: Teach about the importance of nonverbal communication in your language classroom

“Often people cannot understand the impact of nonverbal communications involved in a situation unless it is replayed and figured out.” (Blatner, 2002) Role playing is an excellent technique to bring this aspect of language to the forefront. Participants may act out someone else in an attempt to help that person see him or herself and how they use nonverbal language.

Tip 5: Cultural Interviews

To help students learn about the differences between cultures, have them engage in interviews with people from cultures other than their own. Consider the following questions: “At what distance does a good friend get too close?” “Do you have a favorite seat at the table?” "What do you do when you do not want to be disturbed?” (Arias, 1996) Questions can also be asked of eye contact, body language, and specific gestures. After students have completed their interviews, they can share and discuss their finding with the whole class.

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Tip 6: Allow time for students to use their observational skills to learn more about nonverbal language

Students can observe people, videos, television, and pictures and then record results according to gender, culture, and nonverbal language use. Remind your students that they should observe without judgment.

Tip 7: Lead students in experiments where they can evaluate nonverbal behavior

For example, have them stand closer to someone than they usually would. How does it feel? How does the other person react? Don’t make eye contact. What happens? Results can be shared with the class or written in a journal. (Arias, 1996)

Tip 8: Use gestures and other nonverbal behaviors to help you teach concepts from all subject areas

This will be especially useful for students learning English. Make sure your gestures do not contradict what you are saying. Learn to read your students’ gestures to help you discover what they already know and what they are ready to learn. Susan Goldin-Meadow has done a lot of research in this area; check out some of her articles for more information.

Tip 9: Play charades!

Let your students try to express themselves solely with nonverbal communication. Discuss the role both verbal and nonverbal messages play in our attempts to communicate. Discuss any instances when a student has misread another person’s nonverbal behavior and what problems were encountered.

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