Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017

Effective body language in the classroom

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March 9, 2017

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Before you read any further, I would like you to remember your favourite teachers.

Did you? Well if yes, here is where it gets a bit interesting. Do not simply recall the names but think about the qualities of those teachers that made them your favourite. Is it just because they taught your favourite subject? Or, because they were lenient with homework? If not, what is the particuliar reason that you specifically recall these teachers over others? I am sure it simply cannot be because they taught a topic with absolute excellence.

By now, a few thoughts might have started flowing in and out of your mind. You might be thinking why you chose them when I first posed the question. Well the answer is really simple. It is because these teachers did not essentially need a blackboard and a classroom to teach. Their mere presence made you feel good and wanting to learn more. A simple smile and an approving nod from them gave you a great sense of encouragement. Generally speaking, it is the teachers’ body language that greatly contributes to the impact they have on us.

Wondering what body language has to do with teaching? Expertise in teaching and using appropriate techniques to do so is definitely a pre-requisite of being an effective teacher. However, body language of teachers too plays an important role when they are teaching. Let us first understand what body language exactly is. It is a non-verbal, yet powerful form of communication that every individual denotes via his/her gestures, attitude or facial expressions. We not only respond positively/negatively to spoken words of an individual but also react to that person’s body language. This same principle applies to teacher and student relationship in the classroom (hence, the title).

Seven percent! That’s how much speaking impacts the students. The other 93 percent is attributed to non-verbal communication. Part of that 93 percent is the way teachers use their voice, tone, etc. The rest is body language. A teacher’s body language has a strong (read ever-lasting) impression on students. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to use it effectively in the teaching process. Inside a classroom, it is the body language of the teacher that will often dictate the presence and the students will respond accordingly. Because it is what the students will ultimately respond to. Words can be made up, so it is not unusual to be sceptical about what’s being said. Body language, on the other hand, will almost always be taken at face value. And hence, body language plays a positive role not only in classroom teaching, but in shaping students’ characters too. This is because, students often respect their teachers; even imitate their words and actions, sometimes subconsciously. Therefore, teachers should understand the body language correctly, and master the methods and principles of body language ably.

For example, let’s consider the effect of body language in English teaching. Teachers can apply it in speaking, listening and even reading in class. For instance, a teacher can extend his or her arms slowly while saying ‘She lives in a very big house’. As a result, the student will have the impression that the room is very big. English classroom can literally be a stage for teachers as well as students. For the purpose that teachers teach in a comfortable environment, they can change the classroom into a shop, a hotel, a park or even a hospital. Few role plays in flow with the topic to be taught and you can expect an amazing learning experience.

What follows is a short list of how a teacher can use body language to build great rapport with students. It is not comprehensive, but it serves the purpose in this article.

1. Body posture:

This being the first impression of a teacher should be very appealing. Walking tall, with body erect and shoulders straight engenders confidence which eventually helps to be an effective leader.

2. Eye talk:

They say eyes are the ‘windows to the soul’. Looking straight into a student’s eyes creates a positive relationship with them. Teachers can especially maintain a good eye-contact while emphasizing on an important topic.

3. Facial expressions:

This one is easy. Smile. A gentle smile makes the communication easier and more persuasive. It’s a mood changer and will evoke warm feelings in both teachers as well as students.

4. Voice modulation:

Teachers can use a variety of vocal intonations while presenting new material. For example, loud and soft voice can be used while teaching opposite words like ‘big’ and ‘small’ respectively.

5. Positive force field:

This is actually a collection of positive body language that lowers students’ anxiety and boosts their motivation. It includes smiling, leaning, nodding and employing open palms; simply projecting that a teacher is approachable.

There’s an old adage which says, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’. A teacher’s body language very efficiently takes care of the last part of the saying. The non-verbals mentioned above can produce a well-deserved goodwill between a teacher and a student. By trying out above methods along with a few more, teachers can take note of how differently students respond to them. Needless to say, this elevates the teaching-learning process to a whole new level. It’s a total win-win situation!

Abhijeet D Mandve is an engineer by qualification and a personality development trainer by profession. Under the aegis of his firm A.C.E (Assertive & Combined Education), he organises personality development workshops for various institutions. These workshops mainly focus on an individual’s current set of skills and also help him/her discover new ones.

Within these programmes, he has worked with a wide range of audience right from job aspirants, to students and teachers of SSC and CBSCE. His primary motive is to get people ready for the inevitable change. He considers himself a millennial, and tries to deliver his views through easy going and fun-filled sessions which make the learning activity very interesting. These sessions not only provide him a platform for improvement but also help him expand his own horizon. Any feedback is welcome at mandveabhijeet@gmail.com.

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