Most communication is non-verbal.

If you are going to be a tutor, understanding body language is very important.

Why?

Their body language can tell you how receptive they are to your classroom discussions or even if your student is too upset to learn. Imagine, all of this can be conveyed without saying a single word.

This can help you alter the way you teach.

How?

The key is to understand how they are physically expressing what they are thinking and feeling.

Here are a few tips to gauge interest:

(These tips have been originally published by WikiHow)

1. Make eye contact. Look at your student’s eyes. Are they dull and unfocused? Are they focused at a point on the floor, ceiling, or wall? If so, the student is likely not paying attention.

Similarly, if a student appears alert and keeps their eyes on you as you move around the room, you can be assured that they are paying attention.

2. Look at their facial expressions. Your students’ facial expressions will reveal a variety of emotions and thoughts, from anger to interest to happiness. As you make eye contact with each student, pay attention to what their facial expressions are telling you.

  • If a student’s mouth is turned down and their eyes are dull, they are likely unhappy to be in class just then.
  • If a student appears alert and is smiling or half smiling, they are most likely responding well to the class discussion and feel engaged.
  • If a student has an indifferent expression on their face, they may be bored and simply biding time until you let the class leave for the day.

3. Evaluate their posture. Are they slouched over the desk? They may be trying not to fall asleep. A student who is paying attention will usually be sitting up, whereas a student who is bored or disengaged may very well be slouching.

  • You can help perk up your student by moving around the classroom. They will have to sit up to keep their eyes on you, which should be enough movement to re-engage them

4. Figure out why a student might scratch their head. Children may scratch their heads because they itch, just like anyone does. When children in the classroom scratch or touch their heads it might also be their way of expressing confusion. If you see a child scratch or touch their head, pause and ask if they understand the lesson.

  • “Ravi, can you please ask me a question about this? It would be very helpful if you did so that we can make sure that everyone understands what we’re talking about. Maria, I’d like you to think of another question about this lesson that we can answer after Bobby’s question.”

5. Look at the legs. If a student is tapping their foot against the floor or bouncing their legs up and down, he or she may be impatient with teaching. They may also have a physical or psychological reason for these movements. Leg position varies from student to student – some prefer to cross their legs, or to place them firmly on the floor.

6. Look around. In addition to looking at students individually to assess and interpret their body language, try looking at the room in parts or even as a whole. You will likely find several students engaging in similar body language, which should give you an idea of the overall class atmosphere that day.

  • If a majority of the class appears disengaged or bored, consider stopping your lecture and moving to a group project or open class discussion.

Here are a few tips to gauge emotions:

1. Spot the fake smile. A student may feel obligated to smile at you when you look in their direction; however, that smile may be obviously fake and conspicuously dishonest. A fake smile indicates that the student is not feeling well emotionally or physically, but that they do not want to share those feelings with you.

2. Pay attention to blinking. Almost everyone blinks their eyes. It’s an involuntary process that keeps the eye organs healthy and lubricated. If you notice a student blinking too much or hardly at all, they may be telling you that they are tired, bored, or distressed.

3. Encourage stretching. A student may yawn or stretch several times, and this indicates that they are bored, tired, or disinterested. Encourage stretching – even if a student has to stand up to do so – as this promotes blood circulation and increases oxygen levels to the brain, providing a natural burst of energy.

4. Watch the arms. Your students’ arms will tell you quite a bit about how the class is receiving your instruction, how they’re feeling about being in the class, and their individual moods. Look at each student’s arms, and then look at the class as a whole for any like behaviour.

  • Folded arms indicate the student is closed off and not receptive to the discussion.
  • Open arms indicate interest, openness, and that student is feeling connected and included.

Did you know about these body language cues? Tell us the ones you’ve always been able to recognise and the ones you learnt today. We look forward to reading your comments.