Verbal & Nonverbal Communication in Physical Activity Settings

Instructor: Shannon Orr
This lesson defines verbal and nonverbal communication and discusses their use in physical activity settings. It also describes different situations when the teacher decides which type communication is best.

The Importance of Communication

Imagine that you only spoke to tell your students how to do things. Students who are hands-on learners may be at a disadvantage. Or, imagine that you decide to only teach through action. Students who are verbal learners may have a difficult time grasping concepts. As a teacher, you must ensure that you are clearly expressing yourself and that students fully understand what you are saying and what is expected of them. Communication is the ability to express how you feel and/or what you think about a particular situation. If there is a lack of communication within the teacher/student relationship, problems and/or misunderstandings are sure to occur.

Verbal Communication in Physical Activity Settings

Verbal communication occurs when you use words to express how you feel or what you think about a situation. As a teacher, it is important to verbally state rules and expectations, especially in a physical activity setting. If students are not told what they should or shouldn't do, they could hurt themselves and/or others. Teachers cannot assume students know the rules of a game or how to protect themselves or others; they must ask questions and, based on how students respond, they can assess how well students know the information. Also, restating information can be important in case students have forgotten or misunderstood what was originally said.

Verbal communication is an important part of building students' character and establishing a relationship between the student and teacher. When teachers tell students that they did a great job, they should also express what it was that they did. For example, if students did a great job at taking turns or paying attention, teachers should tell students so that behavior can continue. It is also important for teachers to express when they are disappointed in students' actions. Telling students when they have not met the expectation allows students to know that the teacher wants every student to perform to their highest ability and anything less is unacceptable. If a student is a great player but does not take turns or tries to take over instead of being a team player, the teacher should express the importance of working as a team and how being a selfish player could cause other students to build an alliance against them and limit their opportunities to show their abilities.

Nonverbal Communication in Physical Activity Settings

Nonverbal communication occurs when you express how you feel or what you think without the use of words. Nonverbal communication can be as simple as the expression on your face or as complex as modeling a particular situation. If a student is talking while instructions are being given before a game, it may be inappropriate to start a conversation about your expectations at that very moment. However, the teacher can make eye contact with the student and place their finger over their lips. This tells the student that the teacher wants them to be quiet. This method relays to the student that the teacher is not pleased with their current action and wants them to stop.

Nonverbal communication is also important when teachers need to model how something is done. Sometimes students cannot make the connection between what is being said and what they need to do. In situations like these, it is important for the teacher to show students what to do. If students are learning to play baseball, they may not understand when the coach says to grip the bat and hold your elbow at a 45-degree angle. However, if the teacher grabs a bat, holds it correctly and allows students to see the correct way, students may be able to mirror what they see.

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