May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 President for 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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.