Speaking Without Words in the Classroom

Have you ever felt yourself thinking, “The students do not listen to me”?  I repeat myself over and over again, and they still do not get the directions. So how might you speak without speaking? How might you give directions and other cues in the classroom without ever saying a word? Teaching is as much about what you do as what you say.

In the Sunday school classroom or other studies, children tire of hearing the voice of one person. They want to speak and be heard. Below are five ways you as a leader can provide direction and leadership in your classroom while limiting how much you speak. The less you actually say, the more the students will listen when you do speak.

  1. Teach students hand signals for often-repeated directions. Sign language or hand signals will help the students understand without the leader having to give verbal directions.  Use the sign for yes, no, or wait for standard questions asked in the classroom.  This might even be a helpful cue for behaviors as well.  An example might be one hand up to indicate “wait” or the sign-language sign for “yes.”
  2. Provide tones or bells to indicate different aspects of the session. An example might be the lighting of the candles for worship, or a bell to indicate that it is time to begin wrapping up an activity.  This provides the students with a different sound or cue that will enable them to be leaders.  The more unique the ritual, or sound, the more likely the students will respond.
  3. Many times questions, which are posed for students, require the student to think and consider the answer. Give the students the time to think… don’t take this away from them. When you think you have given them enough time, allow a few more seconds for them to think.  Great results come from the students figuring out answers.
  4. When asking questions, ask open-ended questions. If the students appear to be confused by directions, ask them to put the directions in their own words so you know what they did not understand. Repetition is good on occasion, but only if you don’t repeat yourself too often.  Allow the students to work with each other and in groups.  The more they speak the more they will hear you when you speak.
  5. Invite the students to lead in prayer or offer time for quiet, individual prayer. The more opportunities for prayer the students have the more intentional their prayers become.

Rev. Dr. Leigh Meekins is an ordained United Methodist deacon and has over twenty years of experience in Children’s Ministries. With a Bachelor of Arts from Birmingham-Southern College, a Master of Religious Education from Duke University, and a Ph.D. from Capella University, Leigh’s focus has been on children and the different intelligences. Leigh writes the Deep Blue Curriculum for Older Elementary.