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A Nonverbal Communication Lesson
by
Steve Darn
- 3

Reflections on the Lesson and Conclusions

On reflection, this may have been an overambitious lesson, attempting to take students from an introduction to a concept with which they were unfamiliar to a full-blown production stage. The learners found the first three stages of the lesson both interesting and entertaining. They enjoyed the running dictation and comparing the meanings of different gestures in different cultures, and were very forthcoming in the brainstorming and presentation activities. This was the first time the learners had been exposed to this kind of lesson, and found the practice activities progressively more difficult though this may have been due to the selection of materials. The video clip needs to be very simple and to involve only two characters. Students were not sure whether to write down what the characters might be thinking as well as saying. Similarly, the extract from the play was not entirely appropriate, being very culture-bound. Something more contemporary and obviously fun and entertaining, or a specially scripted play would have produced better results. Nevertheless, the students performed well and thoroughly enjoyed the lesson. Aims were clearly achieved from both the teacher’s and the learners’ perspectives. There are a number of lessons to be learnt from this experience, particularly that non-verbal communication needs to be taught in small chunks in appropriate situations where the situational or thematic context lends itself to the language. Secondly, time needs to be devoted to confidence-building, creativity and other drama-based activities which help learners to produce natural language and to use expressions and gestures to reinforce meaning. Finally, non-verbal communication, like phonology, should be taught from beginner level. A step-by-step awareness-raising approach is appropriate. Attention to gesture and expression, in particular, adds to the cultural component that verbal communication carries. Awareness of non-verbal communication helps to avoid intercultural misunderstandings whilst adding an extra dimension to natural language production.

steve.darn@ieu.edu.tr with thanks to Dilek Eryılmaz for the lesson and feedback.
Izmir University of Economics, School of Foreign Languages, Izmir, Turkey

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