We teach children a lot about what to say to each other. How to say kind words, how to think before speaking, how to be nice . . . but we don’t explicitly teach them how to read each other’s body language. Someone can say a lot by not saying anything at all. And by recognizing this, I think our boys can keep themselves out of some otherwise poor situations.
Topics Covered: Communication Skills, Fairness, Interpersonal Effectiveness
This body language lesson came from Connecting With Others by Dr. Rita Richardson.
Each lesson begins with a story:
Nicholas was getting in trouble from is mom. He was getting scolded because he forgot to bring his homework home.
He didn’t say anything, but he shrugged his shoulders as she talked to him. He rolled his eyes and kicked at an imaginary rock. His mother was getting more and more upset.
She said, “Don’t give me attitude young man! And go to your room!”
Nicholas was so confused. He didn’t say anything, why did his mom think he was giving her attitude?
We will talk about how you can send messages without even talking. When we talk about this, we talk about personal zones. Personal Zones are how near or far away people stand or sit from each other when they talk.
The way we stand, sit, or talk sends messages to people. Our faces also talk. Our facial expressions let other people know how we feel and what we want to say.
The way we move sends a message to other people.
When you move away from a person when they are talking, you are telling them that you want to end the conversation. When you move toward a person, you are saying you want to talk to them.
However, if you move too close you may get into someone’s personal zone.
When people get angry they need a very LARGE personal zone. When we are happy or caring for someone, we use a smaller personal zone.
It’s important to pay attention to people’s faces, they will tell you how big/small their personal zone is. If we step inside someone’s personal zone when they are upset, we may be getting ourselves into a situation that they were warning us about by their body language.
Try this activity with your students. Have them tell you if they would need a big or small personal zone in these situations.
- You feel down and hurt your knee.
- You won first prize
- The teacher made me upset.
- I’m afraid of the dark.
- I’m angry at my sister.
- Leave me alone – I’m trying to make a skyscraper with these blocks.
Your body posture is the way your body looks when you walk, talk, sit, or stand. Your body posture also tells someone how you feel.
Have your students demonstrate these various types of body postures and have them guess how the person is feeling.
- Fold arms, tap foot
- Stomp feet
- Shake fist
- Snap fingers
- Drop head and slouch over
Last, your face expressions can tell others how you feel. This might be the most important piece. Personal zones and body language are all combined with a facial expression showing people around us how we are feeling.
Show pictures of children’s facial expressions (feelings_worksheets from Elementary School Counseling). Ask the students to identify how they might feel, but don’t forget to bring back in the context of the situation. Everyone feels a certain way BECAUSE of something. So why . . . why does this girl/boy feel happy, sad, scared, shy?
A Social Thinking presenter once told us that by only focusing on facial expressions you are only inhibiting children’s understandings of emotion. Emotion occurs in specific situations and children must also understand the WHERE, WHY, WHEN, and HOW of an emotion. Never take an emotion out of it’s context!