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What are some great ways to use body language in a classroom setting?

Emily Smith

As a foreign language teacher, you will quickly discover that you have limited words in which you can convey an idea or emotion to your students. That’s why when you are a foreign language teacher, body language is even more important than ever; this can be a very effective communication tool between you and your students. Using proper body language can also help you develop effective classroom management skills and it may even allow you to influence your students

Here’s a list of ways to use body language to improve your classroom management skills:
Have Good Posture. When you slouch, slump or lean over, you look like you lack confidence. If you want to win favor with your students you need to look like you know what you’re doing – because you do! Good posture lets your students know that you are a capable leader that they should listen to and trust. So, stop slouching and stand up straight!

When you are a foreign language teacher, body language is even more important than ever; this can be a very effective communication tool between you and your students.

Be Expressive and Use Gestures. When it comes to lower-level students, gestures and facial expressions can make a big difference. If you’re having trouble explaining a specific adjective or you don’t want to give your students the answer with a simple translation, try acting out or
Keep your Arms Open. Just like desks and podiums, crossed arms can make you seem standoffish and unapproachable to your students. Crossed arms keep a person closed off from others and as a teacher that’s the last thing you want to do. Instead, keep your arms open. You can use your hands and arms in an open manner to express grandiose ideas or to add character to your speaking. If you aren’t good at talking to your hands, you can keep them by your side, but just be sure you don’t cross them.

Female teacher teaching her students in a classroom

Smile! You may not have considered a simple smile as a part of body language, but it is. Smiling is a universal body language that will break down any cultural or linguistic barriers that may exist between you and your students. By smiling, you will make your students feel safe and reassured. Keeping your face animated will also help your students engaged with what you are saying.
Change Positions. Standing in front of your students like a cement statue is probably one of the fastest ways to lose their interest. Instead, move around every 30 seconds to two minutes. Walk a few steps forward. Use your arms. Touch a student’s desk. These movements seem simple, but your students will follow you with their eyes, and in turn will stay more engaged.

Make Eye Contact. When you are standing at the front of a classroom full of thirty students it may seem difficult to give your individual attention, but you can. When you are speaking, don’t just gaze out into the sea of faceless students. Make eye contact with your students. You can hold your gaze with one student for about 15-30 seconds before changing to another student. Your students are likely to pay more attention when they know you’re speaking directly to them.

These are just a few ways that good body language can help you in the classroom. Remember, teaching is often like public speaking. It may not come naturally at first, and you will have to consciously think about it. You may also want to practice in front a mirror at home to help you really get it right.

Are there any other tips you would add to this list? Let us know!

About the author

Emily has taught English to ESL learners in four Asian countries. Although she taught students from 3-60, she has a definite affection for preschoolers and college students. She has also worked as an ESL curriculum writer and is TESOL certified. When she is not teaching, she loves watching and making films.