Practical Sheet

The body language for young tellers

SHEET #11

How can you teach body language to help students to get self-confidence, to help memorize the story and to engage the audience?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? 

Oral storytelling is a performative art. It is therefore realised both through verbal communication and body expression. This last is substantiated in the gestures, posture, facial expressions and tone of voice of those who communicate. It is essential that the child understands that this non-verbal communication, even more than the words themselves, establishes, captivates and maintains the attention of those who listen, so it will be important to explain and work with students whose aspects corroborate a good oral narration. There are studies which indicate that non-verbal communication is responsible for 55% of the message that is transmitted! 

It is therefore important to prepare the children so that they first should know the story they are about to tell.  Then they must realise that their body is an equally important vehicle for communication, not only because it helps them to memorise the story they want to tell, but also to be able to communicate effectively with those who listen to them. 

Aspects to be considered in non-verbal communication:  

👉  Posture: if the narrator does not make eye contact with the audience, if he keeps his shoulders slumped or if, on the contrary, he is very agitated, this will interfere with the audience’s ability to follow the story. The correct posture of the spine is also essential for the release of the diaphragm and, consequently, for the voice to come out properly. (See also Educational Sheet

👉  Facial expression: to make the child storyteller understand the determining role of facial expression, particularly when irony is intended or when the emphasis is placed on certain moments of the text. 

👉 Gestures: as performative art, storytelling also lives from gesture, but not as much as theatre, so the storyteller must understand that gestures are fundamental to maintain the bond with those who listen to him. They are also essential to help memorize the story, making a body map of it. 

👉 Voice and breath control: an essential vehicle for successful oral narration, the voice allows the listener to access verbal communication, which means that an audible, paused, clear level should be used that does not let anxiety and nervousness pass. (See also Educational Sheet). 

Working on these aspects of non-verbal communication with students is essential for the child to develop a correct self-knowledge and feel confident to tell stories they know, in any context. 

HOW TO DO IT?  

Before we start oral narration sessions, we can work in class on exercises that allow the student to develop their body expression skills and with them improve their self-knowledge and confidence.  

1. Ask students to tell stories they know. Videotape and then watch it with students, asking them to focus on body language so that they can identify which aspects need improvement. Children are usually very honest and can recognize what needs to be worked on. (more on video making sheet

Suggestions:  

  • Record short excerpts including all students in the class in order to create motivation for everyone to improve.  
  • Ask students to take notes and share their ideas with each other.  

2. As oral narration is a performative art, the exercises proposed can be performed in theatre/drama classes. You can start from the aspects that the students have identified as being the most difficult for them. 

TIP: In one session, proposals for exercises can be prepared in the four aspects of non-verbal communication listed above: posture, facial expression, gestures and voice.   

💡Activities for training Posture  

  1. Ask the child to try to say a sentence in several positions: curved, right, cross-legged, seated, standing and identify the position in which they feel most comfortable. Discuss the individual opinions as a group. 
  1. To dynamize the game of make-believe, in which the child represents a story character with his body, for example, as the posture of a witch (shoulders together, hands that twist and malicious smile) or that of a giant (arms and legs apart, wide steps, mouth that grows to speak).  
  1. Exercise contraction and relaxation movements of some body areas, such as shoulders, hands, belly and make children realize that when they are nervous, they naturally contract certain parts of the body and they should try to relax in order to achieve a more natural posture. 
  1. Train relaxation techniques, being in a sitting position, such as:
  • Asking the students to feel the fingers and the soles of their feet, relaxing to the maximum.
  • Relax the muscles of the legs and knees.
  • Release the arms, palms and fingers.
  • Try to relax the scalp and remove any wrinkles of worry from the face.
  • Ask everyone to yawn and squeeze slowly.

💡Activities for training Facial Expression 

  1. For the student to be aware of their facial expression, it would be good if they could experience expressing emotions through their face using a mirror. 
  1. An interesting activity is the emotion card game, where each student has to express a feeling or emotion through the expression of their face and the colleagues have to guess what they want to show. This technique is especially important when telling a story and wanting to keep the attention of those who listen to us. 

💡Activities for training Gestures 

  1. Construction of a body map of history, that is, to help the student in the selection of gestures that collaborate in their memorization. This component is especially for children who have learning difficulties because it allows the child to communicate more effectively. 

💡Activities for training Voice and breath control 

  1. Ask the child to take a deep breath, filling their lungs completely as if they were balloons about to burst. 
  1. For the voice to come out fluently, the student must know how to do simple vocal warm-up exercises, such as: breathe in and out slowly; breathe in, count to ten and out; count to one hundred every five. Talk, backwards, from 17 to zero. 
  1. Exercises that help the child to know their voice, so that they can choose the one they want to use in each moment of their narration, including repeating a little rhyme in different ways: with suspense, with anger, with sadness, with nervousness, with joy, like a TV announcer, like an advertisement, like a rock song, with a lyrical voice, with a lot of softness, very loud, fast, slowly. 

🗺  Example of Cards to training Facial Expression 

(see more on sheets [1] [2] ) 

🗺  Example of gesture map of a history

Spiel: “The Key to Rome”

Here is the key to Rome 

Rome has a street 

the street has a house 

the house has a table 

the table has a cage 

the cage has a nest 

The nest has a bird 

Who sings and says: 

bird in the nest 

cage nest 

table cage 

house table 

streethouse 

street in Rome.