Non-verbal Ways to Manage Student Behaviour | The Highly Effective Teacher

Don’t Say My Name – Non-Verbal Ways To Manage Student Behaviour

Marie Amaro

Non-verbal ways to manage student behaviour

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While your name may be the sweetest sound on earth to you, when it is overused in a negative tone, there is no sweetness!

I have heard teachers use a student’s name over and over in a vain effort to have them comply with directions – to stop or start doing something. The teacher’s voice becomes white noise – the target student is not listening and the rest of the class is annoyed and also switching off.

Being creative  and using a variety of non-verbal ways to manage student behaviour and gain student attention can avoid this pitfall and save your voice:

1. Use proximity. Never underestimate the value of this strategy in managing student behaviour. Consider your own response to seeing a police car whilst driving. A teacher moving around amongst the students and strategically positioning themselves can prevent and remedy a multitude of minor issues.

2. The look. Strategic use of a raised eyebrow or lingering eye contact can let a student know that you are aware of their behaviour and persuade them to comply with expectations.

3. Tapping on the desk or work. Use this strategy carefully. It is not tap, tap, tap in an agitated fashion, it is a quiet, low key reminder of what the student needs to be doing.

4. Eye contact. Making eye contact with students while giving instructions helps you to check for understanding and lets students know that you are aware of them.

5. Point to visual displays of class expectations. (self-explanatory!)

For younger students and those who are not adept at recognising social cues you may need to explicitly teach these non-verbal cues. Simulate situations in your classroom and practise with your students.

Alternatively or additionally, practise using the strategies in a small group or individually. Work out with a target student a set of agreed cues that you will use when you need to get them back on task or to signal to them that their behaviour is inappropriate.