When There are No Words

How do we communicate? If a writer were to describe me as a character in a fiction book, they’d write: as she talked, her hands moved to show emphasis on the point she was trying to make. Do you talk with your hands?

One of the best classroom management tips I’ve learned was teaching students how to ask to go to the restroom and get a drink of water by using sign language. When students ask to go to the restroom they sign the American Sign Language letter “r”. If they need a drink of water, they form a “w” with their fingers. As soon as I see these signs, I either point to the door or nod.

What are other ways we use to communicate beside hand gestures and body language? Tone of voice comes to mind. In a lesson the other day, my students caught my low level of enthusiasm when I’d ask them what they thought the tone of my voice was. I was giving them examples of “tone” of voice in effort to teach them “tone” in writing.

They said: “frustrated”, and, truth be told, that had not been my intention, but they got the point either way. My earlier classes had answered “cheerful”, the tone I was going for. My energy level had affected the tone of my voice in the later classes.

Another form of expression is our behavior. This brings to mind the saying actions speak louder than words. Behavior can give us insight into our thoughts, feeling, values, and personalities. It lets us communicate with others. For example, being on time to work everyday sends the message to our employers that we are responsible and reliable.

Communication and expression in all form is fascinating because it reveals so much information when we choose to pay attention.

4 thoughts on “When There are No Words

  1. Funny you should be talking about this. In one of my own posts last month, I quoted the singer Corina — no, I don’t know much about her, but I read this interview — to the effect that it’s the tone of what you say, as much as the words themselves, to which people react. (It certainly explains a lot of what’s gone on in recent politics — and on both sides of the aisle.) In this instance, you were illustrating actual “verbal” tone to the students, but perhaps you could extend the idea sometime, or with select groups, into a lesson on “denotation and connotation.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a great connection on how each word aside from its definition also has associations. I remember doing a denotation/connotation activity last year with my previous students, and even talking about simple words like “mother” or “father” brought different associations/emotional reactions from them. Depending on their life experience some of them were positive/negative.


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