January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

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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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.