September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

The Power of Non-Verbal Communication

Posted: Friday, July 1st, 2011

by Lisa Hegdahl

When I first began teaching, I struggled with classroom management.  When my principal called me into her office that first October and told me that I had written more detentions than any other teacher, she proceeded to send me to a 3-day classroom management seminar.  Over the next few years, I studied many management techniques, and the behavior of my students improved.  I came to realize that good classroom management comes primarily from well-designed lessons, not any one particular “bag of tricks.”

During one of my first years as a BTSA Support Provider, I attended a workshop on non-verbal communication which shared the strategies from a book titled ENVoY: Your Personal Guide to Classroom Management, by Michael Grinder & Associates.  Grinder’s message – to decrease verbal management tendencies and increase attentiveness to our non-verbal messages – has had the biggest impact on the behavior of my students than any other single strategy I have used.  Grinder quotes NEA published research that says 82% of all teacher communications are non-verbal messages.  It would follow that we would want to be sure those messages are clear, consistent, and elicit the desired behaviors.

I use several of Michael Grinder’s methods on a regular basis.  One is called “Freeze Body”.  It is used to get a class’s attention.  In order for the non-verbal cue to match the auditory cue that is being used to get a class quiet and focused on the teacher, the teacher stands still in the front of the classroom, points toes forwards, and puts weight on both feet.  If a teacher moves around during this critical time of trying to focus students, students observe a discrepancy between what they are being asked to do and what the teacher is doing.  I have experimented with this technique by using my verbal cues with and without “Freeze Body”.  Students focus significantly better when I use all the techniques in “Freeze Body”.

“Freeze Body” can be used along with “ABOVE (Pause) Whisper.”  To get the attention of the students, the teacher speaks “ABOVE” the volume of the class.  Once the teacher has their attention, the teacher pauses.  The next spoken words by the teacher are spoken in a whisper.

For three years, I worked for a company that provided school assemblies.  My boss was a master of raising his hand while saying, “Raise your hand if…”  I brought this non-verbal cue into my teaching early on.  Michael Grinder takes it farther.  If you want students to “Speak Out” with no hand raising when having a class discussion, ask the discussion question while holding both your hands out in front with palms raised upwards.  If you want to speak to the class with no one raising their hand, or speaking out, point to yourself with one hand, and with the other, hold out your palm to the students like a traffic cop would do.  Some classes will need to be taught the pairing of the hand signals with the non-verbal cues, but I find that most students understand the cues with little explanation.

The presenter at my BTSA seminar discussed the “Tom Brokaw” voice.  He pointed out that newscasters giving important information speak sentences with the pitch of their voices gradually going down.  Many of us tend to do the opposite.  When I remember to use my “Tom Brokaw” voice, there is a noticeable change in the attentive body language and behavior of my students.  I don’t have to say, “This is important, be attentive.”  They can hear it in the pitch of my voice.

Michael Grinder’s book goes into great detail about how and when to implement his non-verbal cue techniques. There are also other publications and resources that provide in depth non-verbal strategies.  By giving you a few examples here, I hope to inspire you to pursue your understanding of the non-verbal messages you send your students everyday.

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and CSTA’s middle school director.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th-grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is Past-President of CSTA.

2 Responses

  1. For grades 3 – 6, at least, setting clear schedule and behavioral expectations at appropriate times does wonders. And you absolutely must master The Look.

    On the playground, it does wonders to calmly take away mis-used balls for the rest of the day or have a mis-behaving kid walk around with you holding your hand.

    Never yell. Teachers have too much trouble with laryngitis. Once you get their respect, just The Look will be enough.

  2. All I can say is, “Wow!!”

    Thank you so much for the classroom management ideas. Something I learned was in order to get shy students to raise their hands, hold both arms out wide, palms facing the students, in a cross formation. What this does is it gets the students thinking, “Gosh! The teacher’s going to get tired with his arms out like that. I better say something so that he can put his arms down.”

    It works. 🙂

    Ezra Barany
    Author of The Torah Codes

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.