I’ve got something a little different today, Mallory over at Really Learn English (they did a great interview with me last year!) has put together some of her best tips and tricks for using body language in class.
Do have a read and let me know what you think in the comments – or if you’d like or not like more guest posts in the future do let me know too!
Tips on Using Body Language Effectively in Class
There are some general good practices regarding body language whenever we’re teaching – be it a large group, a small group, or even just one student. But there are also some great tricks you can keep in mind if your class just isn’t running smoothly.
Body language is super important because it creates an instant connection with others, and they really do react to it. Don’t believe me? The next time you’re speaking with someone, nod your head “yes” while you speak. The person you’re talking to will almost certainly begin to nod along with you, without even realizing it!
You can put this into action in class. First, let’s talk about some general tips:
1. Eye contact
Each of your students is important. Let them know it by sweeping your eyes across the room as you teach. Don’t stay looking at just one part of the room. Be sure to look your students in the eye and hold their gaze for a few seconds. This automatically makes people feel connected to you and what you’re saying!
2. Proper posture
Whether you teach standing next to the board, sitting behind a desk up front, or sitting at the same table with your student or students, your posture is important. Sit or stand up straight, holding your head high and keeping your shoulders back in a relaxed way.
Don’t slump forward, lean across the desk, or slouch as you teach. This communicates low energy and a lack of interest. Of course, you don’t have to be stiff as a rod the whole class, but remember the importance of showing your energy and enthusiasm through your posture.
Everybody’s style is different, and this is great! Some teachers are very subdued while others enjoy being in constant movement. This depends on YOU as a teacher. However, it’s good to keep an eye on the effects of how you move in class.
When you walk slowly around the room or use your body to help explain verbs, for example, you’re injecting more energy into the class. Watch your students’ reactions. Do they seem overwhelmed by the kinetic energy? Or are they falling asleep watching you in the exact same position?
Now let’s consider some classroom situations and how we might be able to improve them through body language.
My students are just talking and laughing. They’re not paying attention to the lesson!
I had this problem sometimes in my early-morning classes. When the students’ attention wandered, I made a point of standing up tall with correct posture. When you stand and the students are sitting, you put yourself in a position of authority. This trick often helped the students to pay more attention to the lesson without my having to tell them!
I have one student who’s sleepy or distracted. OR One of my students is checking emails on his or her phone!
This is a very common occurrence with adult students who are taking classes in their office. I’ve even had students who bring their computers to class in case an important message comes in! Here we can blend the standing-up trick from above with the movement ideas we talked about.
Get in that authority position (without yelling at your student or giving him or her a nasty look) and begin to walk slowly around the room as you explain or ask for examples. Stop near the student who is having trouble focusing.
You don’t need to be right next to him or her, but your increased proximity will make the student feel like they have to pay attention! Stop in various points of the room so your student doesn’t feel singled out.
Everybody’s falling asleep looking at their books!
When energy in the class is low, you can do a few different things. First, try eye contact! If your students aren’t looking at you at all, call on them individually. When they raise their eyes, maintain eye contact with them as you speak and they answer. Smile and nod to encourage them!
Combine this with extra movement. If you’re sitting down, consider using your arms and torso more as you speak, gesturing in a more emphatic way. Or, get up and walk to the board, act out a vocabulary word, or just move around the room, reducing the space between you and your students.
Give these ideas a try, and you’ll be surprised how well they work! If you’re looking for more tips and resources, check out the teaching center at Really Learn English.