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Nonverbal Communication in the Classroom: Making Your Point without Saying a Word

Nonverbal Communication in the Classroom: Making Your Point without Saying a Word

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Learn how to use your body language to influence positive behavior in students
Learn how to use your body language to influence positive behavior in students

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Published by: The Psycho-Educational Teacher on May 26, 2012
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08/13/2013

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Nonverbal Communication in the Classroom
Making Your Point without Saying a Word
Carmen Y. Reyes***Connect with the Author Online***
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Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages thatenables us to share our knowledge, skills, attitudes, and feelings.Although primarily we communicate with words and spoken language,communication consists of two main dimensions –verbal and nonverbal.Verbal communication uses speech; the nonverbal dimension of communication is defined as communication without words. Thenonverbal dimension of communication qualifies and gives deeper meaning to our verbal messages, providing essential information beyondthe content of what we say. Nonverbal communication includes behaviorssuch as gestures, facial expression, eye contact, posture (bodily attitude),vocal characteristics (e.g., tone of voice), and breathing, as well as lessapparent nonverbal messages sent through our physical appearance (e.g.,the way we dress), and even the physical space between people or  between people and objects in the environment. A well-trained speaker can enormously add depth, meaning, and persuasive power to any verbalmessage through simple nonverbal cues and signals. No matter how hard we try, it is impossible not to communicate. Bothwhat we say (words) and what we do not say (our silence and pauses)send a message to the other person or people. Words and silence bothhave message value, and they are constantly influencing others as well asothers are constantly influencing us. Most specifically, teachers and parents greatly improve the impact of their communicative messages bylearning to use and manipulate all four paths of communication:
Path 1:
Verbal communication
or words and spoken language.
Path 2:
 Nonverbal communication
such as body language andmessages without words.
Path 3:
 Para-verbal communication
or the way we speak, loudnessof speaking, pauses and keeping silent, and interruptions in theconversation.
Path 4:
 Extra-verbal communication
like using time and place, thecontext in which the message is sent, our orientation towards thelistener (e.g., how alike or distant our attitudes and feelings are), and
 
the use of other senses such as olfactory (smelling) and tactile(touching). Nonverbal communication, commonly called body language, seems so powerful that researchers and practitioners in the field agree that manymore feelings and intentions are communicated nonverbally than verbally.Depending on the author, from 7-to-37 percent is communicated throughwords, while as high as 82-to-93 percent is sent nonverbally (for example,see Nitsche, 2006; O’Connor and Seymour, 2002). This reinforces thenotion that, whether we are speaking or not, we are constantlycommunicating and sending messages. In school, approximately 75 percent of the classroom management is considered nonverbal (e.g.,teacher frowning or eye gaze) (Balzer, 1969). In the classroom or at home,how we express something seems to carry more message value and weightthan the words we say. This being true, to influence students toward positive behavior, it is not as important
what 
we say, but rather 
how
wesay it.
Types of Nonverbal Communication
Before we can improve any behavior, we need to understand fully the behavior. Depending on the sensory channel used (visual, auditory, or tactile), there are different types of nonverbal communication:
1.
Universal facial expressions
for happiness, sadness, anger, or fear.The face is the primary source of information for inferring feelings.We probably communicate more and unintentionally by our facialexpression than by any other mean.
2.
 Physiological responses
such as blushing, shaking, sweating, blinking, flaring of nostrils, swallowing, trembling chin, or  breathing heavily.
3.
Gestures
are deliberate movements and signals that we send.Common universal gestures include waving, pointing, and ahandshake. Cognitively, gestures operate to clarify, contradict, or replace verbal messages. Ekman and Friesen (1969) identified fivetypes of universal gestures:

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