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An Analysis of Body Language in Primary
School English Teaching
As everybody knows, the classroom teaching is one of the most important ways that the students learn English. As far as the English teaching is concerned, teachers have to arouse the students’ interest so that they may learn better. There are many ways to arouse the students’ interest and help them to learn better, body language used in English teaching is one of them.
Body language is an important media through which people communicate with each other. It refers to the patterns of facial expressions, gesture, eye contact and body distance that people use to express their feelings in communication. In school education, body language plays a positive role in cultivating the students’ characters. Teachers are usually respected, and
factually, what or how the teachers say and do will be possibly imitated by the students (sometimes subconsciously). In a word, teachers’ graceful body language helps to improve the
students’ artistic-appreciation and moral character. If the students develop a wonderful body language, which will possibly lead them to form optimistic and active feelings, they will surely have a more smooth interpersonal relation.
The affection of teachers’ body language on the students is reflected not only by
establishing a good example, but also shortening the teacher-student estrangement by which a more harmonious studying atmosphere is created. As a matter of fact, teachers’ friendly
appearance can greatly encourage the students’ studying enthusiasm
Further more, the characteristics of theory and abstraction of knowledge also requires the vivid, dramatic and accessible gestures to make it specific and figurative. As a result, the students’ interest is motivated and the effect of teaching is greatly improved.
2 Body Language
2.1 The origin of body language
Body language may date back to Aristotle, who had studied the expressions of actions.
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And Darwin’s Expressions of Humans and Animals published in 1872 can be regarded as the
initial study of body language, in which it was mentioned as part of human activities from the very beginning of the primitive society. However, the public knew little about it and did not study it systematically and scientifically. The publication of Ray L Birdwhistell’s An
Introduction to Kineics in 1952 marked the birth of this new science. Dr. Edward. T. Hall’s
The Silent Language in 1959 and Julius Fast’s Body Language in 1973 made people know
more about this new area and gradually accepted it. The first one is Rinesics Theory, which is related to the special distance between human interaction and the last is Self-intimacy Theory, which concerns the nature of human and any other animal of being touched, and if inhibited;
thit will be released by self-intimacy. During the 20 century scientists paid an increasing
attention to this newly explored field. A bulk of empirical studies have been explored into the specifics of body language, such as general , positive and negative and orientation—angle of
orientation, adjacent versus across; touch; movement and position; voice; etc. Prominent body movement researchers include F. Baos, E. Sapir, W. Labarre, E. Coffman, A. E. Sheflen, Paul
Ekman, Wallace Friesen, Albert Scheflen, and Albert Mehrabian.
Fifty years ago, the linguist and educator Chen Wangdao pointed out that language is a means to send and receive information, including voice, wording and kinesics. He was the first one who made a clear distinction of body language and some other means of message transferring in China. In the late 1980s, two monographs, one is An Introduction to Body
Language (1988) by Ge Erling and the other is motion linguistics (1988) by Zhuangjiyu mark
the beginning of the study in this area in China(高?1994). But the majority of the publications
on this area are translated from other languages. Some known Chinese scholars have a special interest in body language, such as Hu Wenzhong, Liu Wenrong, and Jin Fu, who have
translated many works of body language from foreign language into Chinese.
But what is body language? There is really no quick answer to this question.
2.2 Definition of body language
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines body language as “the
process of communicating through conscious or unconscious gestures and poses” (P.143).The
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Dictionary takes body language as “the bodily
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gestures, postures, and facial expressions by which a person communicates nonverbally with others” (p.211), Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary gives the definition of body language as
“the way you move your body, that shows people what you are feeling” (p.75). And Edward T.
Hall(1981) names this kind of language as silent language, who argues that time talks, space talks, physical settings also talk, and one’s culture even the pitch of one’s voice, tempo and
intonation can tell people something. Early in the 1905s, anthropologist Ray L Birdwhistell, a pioneer investigator in this field, coined the term “kinesics” to refer to the study of body
language. “Kineics” encompasses the study of all body movement of communicative value to facial expression, posture, leanings, muscular tensions, body shifts, head nods, and other small and large body movements. Samovar, Porter ( Stefani propose that body language
involves all those nonverbal stimuli in a communication setting that are generated by both the source and his or her use of the environment and that has potential message value for the
source or receiver.
From the above, it’s not difficult for us to understand why there are so many different terms referring to the same conception?body language, nonverbal language, silent language,
sign language, paralanguage, body talk, kinesics and so on. Each of them focuses on some or more aspects of it. But we can get the essential characteristics of this language as the follows:
? It’s a means of communicating ideas and feelings.
? It’s nonverbal and employs no words, but includes the manners of how words
? It reaches its communicative purpose not only through the bodily function
itself such as facial expressions, gestures, postures, but including the objects
and settings round (proxemics), signs, time messages and so on.
? It employs not only ears but mainly eyes and other senses as well.
 ? It involves both the sender and the receiver consciously or unconsciously.
3 Primary Students’ Psychology in Classroom
Psychology thinks the attention is the psychological activities that focus on certain objects, certain things under a clear state of consciousness, when people have a high degree of
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attention, they will respond to this matter more quickly, more clearly, more deeply, and more durable. One educator said: "Attention is the only gateway to the soul, all consciousness can not come unless through it." Only those information entering the state can be known, and become an individual experience through further processing. its objectives, scope and duration depends on the characteristics of external stimuli and subjective factors. It is difficult to focus on a certain learning object If students are distracted or absent-minded, so the student will not understand what teacher said and wrote, and then they can not have a good perception and understanding of materials, making teaching duplication of efforts. Therefore, we should take various effective ways to nurture the students’ attention, efforts to improve teaching effectiveness in the teaching process.
3.1 Students’ anxiety in English classroom
English learning begins to catch more and more attention in China, a younger age trend is gradually become obvious, and in some areas and schools, English learning has become an important indicator for elementary school children who come into the secondary school, and included in the evaluation system of school education quality. however, for Chinese children whose mother tongue is still in the developing stage, a new language of learning that completely different from the native system will bring some pressure and difficulties on them , Numerous studies show that foreign language beginners make higher levels on anxiety, and
will lead to the greater negative impact on learning in the future. And research has shown
that learning anxiety of native Chinese children may be higher than in other languages. Such as their level of anxiety is higher when learning Japanese than others whose language are another language.
3.2 The effect of teachers’ teaching behavior in classroom
Children in different learning environments have different levels of anxiety, and there are significant individual differences prove anxiety is generate by the external environment and individual factors. And learning English as a mother tongue different from English as second language learning, it is doing in the system of school education and under the teacher guidance of classroom teaching, teacher behavior and classroom climate will become the
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main factors on influencing the emotional attitude of children. Ewald ask native Spanish-speaking English learners to report what is an important impact factor on their English learning, the report found that 89% of the students think that the teacher's language
and behavior has important influence on their study.
Some researchers found that teachers’ positive body language can make positive effect
on helping primary school children to cultivate a significant interest. But negative emotional behavior of teachers has significantly negative effect on primary school children's learning interests, the teachers’ education behavior related to teacher evaluation, encouragement and help to children, as well as communication and attention and so on. Studies indicate that teachers’ negative evaluation will increase the anxiety level of students on foreign language
learning. Horwitz research shows that teachers’ positive emotional support can make students
interested in foreign language learning, so as to enhance foreign language learning achievement. Fan (2008)’ study also found that teachers encourage cooperating with each
other. Students can be divided into two groups consist of boys and girls that create non-threatening learning environment which can effectively reduce the anxiety of students.
4 Body Language in English Teaching
The study on body language both at home and abroad focuses mainly on human interaction, especially on public speech and inarticulate persons. In fact, body language also plays an important role in classroom teaching. Many teachers and educators have explored a lot into the body language in classroom.
4.1 The significance of body language in classroom
4.1.1 Using body language to create a comfortable learning environment
Educational psychology research shows that emotion impact students intellectual development and play in the learning process; Teachers behavior constricts the change of Students mood in the classroom; Teachers face, eyes, posture, gestures invariably affect mood and attitude of students, and then make a great deal of infection and hint for students’ emotion.
Teachers positive body language will promote the students intellectual actions and create a relaxed、 natural and comfortable emotions. Positive emotions and pleasant state of mind
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are good for conduction 、processing and storage of teaching information, and more to
stimulate students motivation to learn.
Second language education experts S. Krashen pointed out that anxiety and relax plays a key role in the filter of mood. When learning second language, Young children who feel comfortable and relax always make better achievement than those under pressure. Teachers clean and decent dressed、 amiable expression and gentle caress will help children receive the trust and safety of information. Their learning will not be disturbed from negative emotions such as tension and anxiety, so it is easier to accept the content of learning, and achieve the desired effect. For example, after children learnt some English words about animals ,teacher designed a game situation that gave gifts to each other and prepare a lot of animal toys (the number of animals more than the number of children, after selected the gift, children should speak out the name of animal while they deliver gift. At the beginning of game, many brave and positive children whose language skills well have chosen their favorite toy to give bear Fred, but some timid, introverted child has not come up. Therefore, when many children was in selected teachers should gently walked beside him and bent down, to encourage them in his ear: "You choose the gift as the same as who sent, you can go with him to send.” Teachers’
warm words and encouragement eyes encouraged children with fully confidence to walk to Bear Fred. Another example, before the English class, we can sing a English greeting song, and children shaking hands, clapping or hugging, it is not only to attract the attention of all children, but also allow them to reduce the psychological burden of children afraid of English and change the pressure in power that make students have confidence in learning English.
4.1.2 Using body language to accept students with the language of error tolerance
Educational psychology shows that most children have entered school for the first time to accept the social tasks that the community entrusted and expect him to complete in the period 6 to 11 years old, they seek the sense of accomplishment from completing the work
and its success was brought about by the teachers’ recognition and praise. If children gain
the constant achievements in learning, playing and awards by adults, children will be proud of awards and success, then training optimistic, enterprising and hard working diligent personality. “Conversely, if teachers have no proper teaching way or the students have no
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hard-working enough and repeated setbacks, especially the achievements were ignored, children are likely to form a sense of inferiority. Therefore, teachers in the classroom should
always pay attention to children’ psychological changes and mood fluctuations.”
Children will inevitably make mistakes in the process of learning English because they are studying a completely different language from native language in the unfamiliar language environment. Especially in pronunciation, some students often say the” frog “as” floger”, the “tree “as “tee”, at this moment, we should not criticize or blame them that will only inhibit the children's interest in learning, undermining their motivation and self-confidence to learn. When children are wrong, we can gently stroked his head, and tell him "have a try again?"; Also duck your body, so that children look at teacher articulation of lips clearly, pointing the mouth and said "say it with me." We should express our tolerance out with all kinds of body language to accept children's mistakes, and give support and encouragement for child. So they gained experience and to prepare for the next success.
In addition, for example in the teaching process, sometimes, students will certainly rush to answer the point mixed. in order to understand if the students master the knowledge, teacher can ask individual students to answer, they can said that” raise your hands and answer
my question”, while handing the right forearm to indicate to the students, so the students will be conscious to stop free speech instead ordered the hand up to answer. If teacher speak loudly to stop it, one will be embarrassed and angry.
4.1.3 Using body language to stimulate students’ enthusiasm and interest in
“Interest is an important way to create a fun, bright teaching environment”. It can
improve the quality of primary school English teaching widely, if teachers consciously seek interesting points in English class. Using the appropriate action in class, teachers have warm smile and good expression on the face can help the students relieve their psychological barriers and stimulate students to practice their oral English. Intuitive and vivid body language can attract students interested in English deeply. The strong study interest is the prime motive power of learning activity, it can stimulate and raise student’s study interest。
Therefore before each class, we should make good preparation so that expect the
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student can have the strong interest through a series of body language. For example, teach “What are you doing?”, you can design the following body language to the text content: let students make writing, or dancing together with you, students do the body language with teacher, listen and do warm up in the activities to enter the study condition, then it has made the natural upholstery for the new class and stimulated students’ study interest greatly. For
example, a very simple example, there is an article in primary school English textbooks: father and mother, help each father. Sister and brother, play together! We can add the action, clenching fists (left thumb on behalf of father, the right thumb on behalf of mother, left little finger on behalf of sister, right little finger on behalf of brother), singing "father and mother" and showing out the two thumbs; singing "help each other" and the left and right thumb merger together; singing "sister and brother" and show out the two little fingers; singing "play together", the two little fingers bending to play with each other . Students are doing moves while listening to the tape and songs that it is easy to learn with immense interest.
The new "Guidelines for Kindergarten Education," emphasized that "children's language ability is developed during used process. To develop children's English proficiency, teachers should supply variety of exchange opportunities for young children in English teaching. How to stimulate children’ enthusiasm to participate in activities? How to take the
initiative to obtain information in English learning? We not only use a variety of teaching aids and create rich and interesting activities in context, but also need teachers’ smiles, high emotions and warm tone to infect each child, so that they do positive responses. Teachers can couple songs, dialogue, word, etc., with vivid, funny and action, and change the static English into dynamic language containing action language and expressions that children can understand, so children can learn the language in interactive and relaxed atmosphere. For example, in order to make children learn English figure 1-10, teachers should choose a catchy song "Digital morning exercises": One and Two up and nodded, Three and Four shake your head, Five kick the legs, Six bend waist , Seven, Eight jumps, Nine and Ten love to sleep. In this way, children are singing and dancing in the process then quickly remember that ten English words.
4.1.4 Using body language to improve students’ ability in learning
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Body language helps to improve listening. To understand others is a basic purpose in English teaching, and teachers often train the students’ listening accordingly. In this process,
if the body language is used, the effect will be better. When beginning a new lesson, the teacher narrates the story outline in English. The body language may help. For example , a teacher can stretch his arms slowly when he says, “She is in a big room”; he can open hid
eyes widely with mouth opened when he says“She is so beautiful a lady”. As a result, the
students will have such an impression: She is very beautiful indeed; a teacher who imitates the crying or the movement of the animals under the premise of teaching order will surely achieve a better effect. Press one’s hand while closing the as if sleeping means “I’m tired”
Body language helps to improve speaking. The spoken language is one of the important ways to communicate, so we should try to develop the students’ ability of speaking. Factually
they are helped to reach the aim in a certain degree by their teacher’s body language. For
example in the first lesson Chapter One is about the time when the new students meet at first time, and they don’t know each other. So the teacher can introduce himself first, such as: “Hello, everyone, nice to meet you here. Now I’ll introduce myself to you. My name is Tom, I
like playing basketball, for, it makes me much stronger; I like reading books, for, reading makes one perfect”. During the introduction, the teacher smiles when he says hello to the class; he shakes hands with some students saying “Nice to meet you”; He writes name down
on the blackboard; he imitates the action of dribbling and shooting at the basketball… Usually,
the application of body language in different situations will result in attracting and successful lesson.
Body language helps to improve reading. With the body language, the students can solve the problem much more easily. For example, they use gestures. As they read the choosing interrogative sentence, they raise their hands in rising tones and lower in falling tones. After training for some times, as soon as they read the sentence, they will remind themselves of the gestures. As a result, there will be no problems in rightly reading the sentences at all.
In a word, the vivid gesture together with the fluent English can create a good circumstance of learning, which will surely play an active part in improving the students’
ability in learning.
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4.1.5 Using body language to arrange the class teaching
Foreign language teaching should be less than mother tongue as far as possible is not only to attract the attention of students to enhance classroom management and enliven classroom atmosphere, but also to create the environment, stimulate interest and exercise learned ability for students learning English, it is very useful for English Teaching. This particular form of communication to foster the feelings of teachers and students can improve the students’ language skills, also have great influence on personality development of students.
In the primary school, students’ vocabulary is limited, but the body languages play a bridge
We can organize the teaching in English, such as: "open you books and turn to page 5". "look at the blackboard" can finger on the blackboard; "work in pairs" can refer to the desk mate; “stop” the use are familiar with the basketball referee to suspend common action; "stand up" and "sit down" like that hands up and down movements; “wonderful “up thumbs and use
praise eyes, “read after me”, “take out a piece of paper”, “be quite”, “listen to me carefully”, “come here, please” and so on, all can be used for simple movement and expression. Body language attracts a lot of these students to mobilize their enthusiasm, so they do not feel difficult to learn English. The coordination of verbal and nonverbal language makes teachers language more vivid to improve the tacit understanding between teachers and students in the classroom. The expression of a lively and cheerful good English teachers and lively organizations not only improve the interest in learning English, but also slowly train the students’ positive outlook on life.
4.2 The specific use of body language
4.2.1 Facial expressions
Expression mentioned here mainly refers to facial expressions. Facial expression is a kind of “Esperanto ", in human society, one person's emotion can be reflected from facial expressions. Famous writer Romain • Roland said: "facial expressions are the language of successful culture for centuries, is more than a thousand times the complexity of mouth about the language." Therefore, if teachers make good use of facial expression language in the