As promised, here are some more nonverbal cues that my colleagues and I found really effective in the classroom. If you didn’t get a chance to check out the first 4 nonverbal cues that I suggested, take a look to find at least one take-away that you can use in your classroom. Even if you have the most solid routines in the world, a fresh strategy might make everyone’s learning time more enjoyable – even yours. Just remember, almost any cues will work as long as you’re transparent about why your students should transition or quiet down and give them plenty of opportunity to practice; without such an emphasis on respect, any behavior management strategies run the risk of looking like a dog-training clinic!
- Keep it simple. A thumbs up for “good job,” and a wink for “working hard” are as simple as it gets, yet they are incredibly powerful.
- Stop light. This was a staple in my inclusive classroom. I made a circular flip-chart that I clipped to a string on the ceiling in the middle of the room. There was a green circle that said “play,” a yellow circle with a large numeral 5 on it (signaling 5 minutes until clean up), and a red circle that said “stop.” Flipping the circle became so routine that I almost didn’t have to say anything to children. Best of all, it hung in the middle of the room, so if at any point a child was unsure about what he/she should be doing, he/she could just glance up and check the “time.” Though semi-ridiculous (the chart was about 9″ in diameter), I would pin the chart to my apron with a clothes pin for treks to the park, gym, or field trips, to give the kids some consistent support.
- Give me 5! Getting this one down will give you a definitive leg up. The key is teaching your students what each finger represents when you put your hand up with outstretched fingers: ears open, mouth closed, eyes on teacher, hands in lap, feet on floor. Younger kids like this one in collaboration with a chant, so be creative!
- The Sound of Music. Nonverbal does not have to mean silent. One of my favorite teachers called the class in from recess by chiming a triangle. The principle here is to mix in something memorable that elicits the same response every time. Setting up transitions around musical sounds is a great idea for busier classrooms, where children may be working in various parts of the room and conversing or doing group work. One ring or beat might mean rotate, while another means go back to your seat. The possibilities are endless as long as you’re consistent.
- Bonus: wiggles. Something I love about nonverbal cues is their emphasis on respect as opposed to authoritative control. You don’t have to yell at kids; they know what you want and they do it (hopefully). If you are a bit of a kid at heart, consider doing something wacky like shaking your tail feather and having your students mimic your wiggles. Engaging kids with something a bit silly shows them that you’re in it to have fun, but it also signals a real mental shift so that everyone is on the same page (including you) for the next activity. My preschoolers really liked a loud clap with an “everybody dance now” call – it’s not a nonverbal cue, but it was fun.