Nonverbal communication is more important than many people think, and teachers often teach body language activities to their students to learn more about how body language works. Below are some facts about body language and its importance in everyday communication, along with some activities specifically designed to teach about body language.
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What Is Body Language?
Simply put, body language is a form of nonverbal communication that uses physical behaviors instead of verbal communication. Intentions, feelings, and even thoughts can be communicated using body language. This includes your posture, eye movement, gestures, and facial expressions, among others. Also known as kinesics, you can easily interpret body language if you know what to look for.
Teachers often teach activities that help students understand the significance of body language. Many of these activities emphasize how body language is often stronger than verbal communication. Here is one of those activities:
- Stand in front of the students and have them stand also
- While announcing out loud what you’re doing, initiate certain activities
- These activities can include clapping your hands, touching your nose, stomping your feet, and much more, but perform the activities while describing them aloud
- Next, change up the activity and the out-loud description and see who follows; for instance, while saying “touch your nose,” you touch your ears instead
- Observe the number of students doing what you are saying aloud and those who are doing what you’re actually doing
This can teach students a lot about the differences between verbal and nonverbal communication, and the importance of the latter. Many other activities can do the same.
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Body language is practiced by both humans and animals and is an important way to communicate with others. In addition to the actions mentioned above, it also uses mannerisms and even certain attitudes. It can be conscious or subconscious, and it can be used to communicate both physical and emotional states.
Some Very Simple Activities to Learn About Body Language
Dozens, perhaps even hundreds of body language activities are available to teach students and even employees the significance of body language. Below are a few of them.
#1: Writing a story. Divide participants into groups of two or three and have them write a 600-word story about body language. The story tells of two people who are communicating via body language, so no dialogue can be included. Afterward, each group will read their story aloud by describing the various body language movements. Feedback should be provided by the other groups.
#2: You-tubing it. Get several videos from online sources and present them to the group one at a time. Have everyone write up a short description of what is going on in the video. They have to pay attention to gestures, body movements, and much more. Get each participant to read aloud his or her description. It might be surprising to learn that many participants will disagree about the video they just saw.
#3: Emotion cards. Get some postcards and write down an emotion on each one. These can include emotions such as sadness, nervousness, stress, frustration, cynicism, anger, or any others. Ask for a volunteer and give him or her one of the cards. Have that person leave the room, then walk back in displaying that emotion. See if the other participants can guess what the emotion is.
#4: The butterfly effect. Have the participants stand in a circle. Hand a beach ball to someone and have that person throw it to another person, and he or she has to carefully observe the person the ball is thrown to. The ball is thrown to each person only once, and the last person has to observe the person who started the activity. Then, each person has to imitate the actions of the person he or she threw the ball to. In most cases, the imitations get livelier as they go along.
#5: Acting up. Divide the participants into two groups. Assign a leader from each group and have these two individuals go outside. While outside, they have to think up an object to describe in front of the participants. The participants have to guess what the object is while the two leaders use only nonverbal cues in their description. The group that guesses first wins, and both leaders join that group. Choose two more leaders and repeat until one group contains all of the participants.
#6: Guess the leader. Have participants stand in a circle. Choose a “guesser” and have that person leave the room. The rest of the participants then choose a leader. When the guesser comes back in, the participants all start making hand gestures and movements, while trying to imitate the leader. The guesser has to guess who the leader is based on everyone’s nonverbal movements.
#7: Silent designs. Divide participants into groups of three or four people. Give each of them a large sheet of paper and a lot of scrap paper, as well as some colored markers. Each team has to come up with an item to draw – a shoe, a tote bag, a lamp, and much more – and they have to draw it together without speaking. Only nonverbal communication can be used to draw the perfect item.
#8: Miscommunications. Choose two-person teams and give them two exercises. In the first, Person A has to describe his or her hobby for one minute without smiling; Person B listens and asks questions if desired. Then, the participants swap places. In the second exercise, Person B talks about his or her hobby in a natural tone, while Person A listens with no eye contact and without asking any questions. Hold a discussion on both exercises afterward.
Activities Just for Children
Of course, along with basic nonverbal communication games, there are also those specifically designed for certain groups. Below are some great body language activities developed just for children.
#9: Examples in the media. Turn on the television set, but make sure the sound is turned off. With your child, try to figure out what the actors are trying to communicate by the way they are acting. Point out eye contact, hand movements, and much more, to teach them about the importance of body language and communication.
#10: Point out the different possibilities. If a person folds his or her arms, that person could be frustrated about something – or he or she could just be cold. Highlight different body language actions and teach your child about the different emotions that may be represented there.
#11: Try the game of charades. Take index cards and on each one, write down a different emotion; for example, sad, happy, angry, and much more. Pull out one of the cards and act out the emotion to the group of children. Let them guess which emotion you’re trying to display. You can even use animals and activities, such as brushing your teeth, instead of emotions.
#12: Snacking differently. Take 5 to 10 bowls and place a different snack in each of them. Have each child take a bite of one or more snacks and indicate their like or dislike of the snack using only facial movements. Have the other children try to guess what the child is trying to “say.”
#13: Emotions can be displayed nonverbally. Take pieces of paper and on each of them, write down a disposition or mood; for example, suspiciousness, security, guilt, and much more. Place them in a bowl. When it’s their turn, all of the children will read the same sentence. The difference is that they must read it in a way that demonstrates what mood they’ve chosen when they drew a piece of paper from the bowl. It doesn’t matter what the sentence is; it just has to be the same one for each child.
#14: Card games can be fun. For this game, give each child a card and make sure he/she does not let anyone else know what the card is. Instruct the children they have to get into four groups, divided into diamonds, clubs, spades, and hearts, but they have to do so without talking. After they get into these groups, they have to get in order from ace to king, again, using nonverbal communication only.
How About College Students?
College students are soon to be in the real world starting their lives, so it’s a great time for them to learn about the importance of nonverbal communication skills. Below are some activities designed especially for college students to learn more about body language.
#15: All pictures tell a story. Find four to five photographs that show people demonstrating different types of body language; for example, someone flashing a peace sign, someone crossing his arms, and much more. Divide the participants into groups of 7 to 10 people each and have them look at the photos one at a time. For each photo, ask questions such as, “how would you react if you saw someone striking this pose?”, “what message is the person in the picture sending?”, and “how does the race/gender/age of the person in the photograph affect the message you get from it?” You can write as many questions as you like.
#16: Following the leader. Choose a leader, and that person must give signals that the others follow. Without speaking, everyone else has to follow these commands. If someone messes up, that person is disqualified. Change the leader after each turn, with the current leader choosing the next one. The game ends when only one person is left standing.
#17: Explaining your drawing. This is one of the many body language activities that use drawings as part of the game. Divide participants into various groups and have each group draw a picture. Each of the other groups has to decide what the picture means. Every group will draw a picture, and every group gets the chance to interpret the other groups’ drawings.
#18: Introductions. Divide the participants into groups of two. They tell each other their names without letting the other groups know this information. When it’s a pair’s turn, each member has to introduce the other one without using any words. Other pairs have to guess the name they’re trying to communicate nonverbally.
#19: Posture is important. Choose five students to stand in front of the classroom and give them a scenario. For instance, have them pretend they are waiting to be interviewed for a great job. Then watch how their posture changes, and get the other students to write down what their impression is of the postures. Change the scenarios if you like, and read what the others say about the different postures they have seen.
#20: Good versus bad listening. Divide participants into pairs. Person A tells Person B a story while Person B listens intently without saying anything. Next, Person B tells Person A a story, but Person A has to be a bad listener. Have the other students explain how both the “good” listener and the “bad” listener reacted nonverbally.
#21: Subconscious decisions. Have participants stand up and demonstrate an activity while using nonverbal cues that are the opposite. For instance, a student can tell the class he/she is excited about winning a blue medal in cooking or swimming, but his/her body language shows just the opposite. The class can then talk about the differences.
#22: Sharing familiarities. Get two people to talk to one another about their favorite movie, book, or television show. The one that isn’t talking at the moment has to show a variety of nonverbal cues; for example, standing with feet wide apart, acting like they are not listening, standing too close to the other person, and much more. The talker has to describe the feelings he or she got while the other party was doing these things.
#23: Acting out scenes. Divide participants into groups of two or three people. Write down “scenes” on slips of paper and have the first group choose one of those pieces of paper. The group acts out the scene without words. Next, another group comes forward and acts out the scene with words. It is always interesting to see how the two versions usually differ.
As you can tell, body language is important, and so are the various body language activities available in many different places, especially online. Finding the best ones for your group, therefore, should never be difficult.
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