How to Develop Non-Verbal Cues for Classroom Management

Non-verbal cues can carry heavy meaning.

While the ultimate goal of a teacher is to educate her students, she must also contend with the complex struggles of behavior management. Behavior management is an integral part of the classroom at any grade level. Through the establishment and implementation of a strong behavior management program, teachers can ensure that their students remain safe and focused on their school work. When developing a behavior management plan, teachers can elect to integrate non-verbal cues. These easily employed signals save time and energy; once established, the teacher can use them to quickly quiet a classroom full of rambunctious students and prepare them to get down to learning.

Review your rules. When establishing non-verbal cues, you must consider which rules are conducive to being paired with cues of this type. Rules that deal directly with group behavior, such as “no talking” and “get to your seats when the bell rings” can be easily partnered with distinct non-verbal cues.

Select appropriate cues. Whenever possible, you should make your cue relevant to the rule in question. Students are not likely to remember a complex series of hand symbols, but if your cue has a connection to the rule itself, they will struggle with retaining the cue less. If “get to your seats when the bell rings” is rule number three, you could make your non-verbal cue as simple as holding up three fingers, clearly indicating that you are asking them to complete rule number three.

Introduce cues to students. Teach your cues to students just as you would teach a classroom lesson. Explain to students why non-verbal cues will be helpful in the classroom, and demonstrate each cue to the students slowly and repeatedly.

Practice cues with students. Immediately after introducing students to cues, give them the opportunity to respond. Move through the rules one at a time, practicing the cue usage. To practice your cue for “no talking” you could allow the students to start conversing with someone around them and wait for an undetermined amount of time before holding up your signal. Repeat this procedure numerous times, ensuring that students commit the cue to memory.

Establish non-verbal cues for individual students if necessary. If you have any students in your class who struggle with their behavior more than the rest, you can establish a personal cue just for that student. Consider the student’s needs, and meet with the student to work together to establish a non-verbal cue that will remind the struggling student to cease the inappropriate or disruptive behavior. This discrete cue will likely be less embarrassing for the student than receiving a constant oral reminder.

Be consistent. If cues are not used consistently, they will be ineffective. After you have established your cues, use those cues and only those cues to elicit the assigned action.

Praise students for responding to the cue. As students start to respond to the cue quickly, lavish praise on them. Remind them repeatedly how proud you are of their hard work and how grateful you are for their cooperation.

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.