Guest Post: Tips on Using Body Language Effectively in Class (plus tips for teaching adults)

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!

Be genki,

Richard

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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

eyes

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.

3. Movement

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.

 

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

4 Responses to “Guest Post: Tips on Using Body Language Effectively in Class (plus tips for teaching adults)”

  1. dan burgess (QUEBEC canada)

    Really useful! My clientele is 90% adult business people. I have been using these tips without even realising it and they work. Eye contact is ESSENTIAL ! And I picked up a good method for students who consult their email or text messages during class, a major irritant! Keep these guest posts coming, I like them!
    Dan

  2. Arrey

    This tips are really great and it works well. But what happens when you enter a kids class and they just start crying because you are a foreigner and a total stranger to them ?

  3. Richard

    @Arrey: You need to work on your empathy body language. Relax more, get down on their eye level, and really look at how their regular care givers dress and act and try and copy their body language and style. For guys, no beards or glasses Plus of course the biggest thing is to smile – lots! 🙂

    Carrying big interesting props/toys in with you, also works!

  4. Maria

    hi Richard

    I think your approach is really great. I would add a couple of suggestions. I’ve always tried, when I’m teaching, to encourage children to help another child who isnt as fast as them. In other words not just to let them concentrate on themselves and their getting to the ‘finish line’ but how about the child next to them, or the one who obviously isnt getting it.
    This works for the most part in a wonderful way because most children are willing and ready to reach out to other kids but the system is so ‘me’ centred that it blocks creativity and sharing.
    I actually lived this experience when I was studying in Italy and we were a group of 12 studying tough subjects in Italian – we were all foreigners. The great thing was that we all knew we were ‘learners and struggling.’ We broke up into smaller study groups and we all helped each other get through the course!
    to me this is oftentimes what is missing in our education system. A little brotherly/sisterly love goes a long way!
    Thanks for your wonderful efforts.

    Maria

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