Using body language in teaching: Hand signals

It is said that over 50 percent of your communication is via our body language. In fact only around 10 percent of our communication is verbal. As teachers we are professional communicators so it baffled me why I hadn’t had any training on body language. I decided to attend a teacher training day specifically focusing on the use of body language within the classroom. I have to say it was one of the best training sessions I have ever been on. Since then I have been busy within my school, teaching others about what I have learnt and have had a fantastic response so I thought I would share some of the ideas with you.

My favourite thing about this, is just how simple yet effective I have found it to be in the classroom. In this series of blogs I will discuss the three best methods which have really positively influenced my teaching.

Palms up and palms down


Palm down


Palm up


This is such a subtle difference but my word does it make a difference. Have a look at the two pictures above. This is the exact same picture but one is with the palm up and the other palm down. With the palm up we are immediately giving a more welcoming body language. This is perfect for when telling the students about the exciting things we are doing this lesson or when we want our students to feel welcome. The palm down however, gives a completely different message. Just by flipping your hands over suddenly you are much more authoritative and are giving a much more serious impression. This is very useful for when you are telling the kids exactly what you expect from them and when giving instructions. Try it in a mirror I promise you will noticed a change in the way you come across just by a simple flip of the hand!

Now this is not to say that you should start doing the Macarena in your lessons but start trying to be more aware of what your hands are saying when you are giving messages out to the students. If your voice is saying ‘I have asked you to be quiet already in this lesson, this is your last warning’ but your palms are facing up you are giving a very mixed message to that student. This may make them more likely to talk out of place again in your lesson forcing you to take action which could have been avoided.

This concludes part one of my body language series. Please check back soon to see how the use of positioning  can help manage your classrooms


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