Silent Issues

Standard

nevergetawaywiththisballoons

Last time we examined the topic of “Word Balloons,” with the focusing on how teachers sound when they speak in classrooms.

dp failed me brain

Spoken in a classroom somewhere.

 

This time let’s go further by considering how teachers look during their interactions.  I’m not talking about how teachers dress, although that is an important issue and one we’ve already addressed (summary: keep it functional, simple, conservative, and non-CGI).

Teacher appearance, in the present case, refers to the outward actions and mannerisms displayed during classroom instruction.  These non-verbal behaviors include facial expressions and body language–the unspoken communication that accounts for up to 93% of all human interactions (Mehrabian, 1968).

 

Ray-Park-GI-Joe-2-Snake-Eyes

With the topic of voice tone (word balloons), our inspiration was Marvel’s mouthy antihero Deadpool.  It’s only fitting that our model hero for unspoken behaviors is the mute commando Snake-Eyes of G.I.Joe fame (Hasbro’s toy-line featuring military super-heroes).

Despite being on opposite sides of the dialogue scale, Deadpool and Snake-Eyes share similar skills and accessories. Interestingly enough, G.I.Joe artist Robert Atkins recently shared a mock-up image depicting these two fan-favorite characters.

deadpool-snake-eyes-cover

 

One of the most celebrated G.I.Joe stories is from Marvel’s original comic book series, issue #21: “Silent Interlude.” This tale is famous because it features absolutely zero dialogue or sound effects.

The adventure follows Snake-Eyes on a rescue mission to save Scarlett from Cobra and a castle of ninjas, including Storm Shadow.  (If that previous sentence doesn’t excite you, you’re not a child of the ’80s.  And you missed two major characters’ backstory revelation in the issue’s last few panels.)  

gijoe 21 cover

 

Below are a few sample pages. Notice how writer/artist Larry Hama conveys a range of motions AND emotions with expressions and movement.

Take a long, close look and enjoy the silence.

interlude 3.png

interlude 4

G.I. Joe Classics vol 03p021

 

interlude3

 

This “silent issue” is not just a gimmick.  It became so legendary, in fact, that the format has been repeated a few times in the G.I.Joe comic series as well as other titles, including a Deadpool parody and even an entire month called “‘Nuff Said,” where all Marvel comic book titles featured silent issues with no dialogue or captions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Teachers typically don’t fight off ninjas hordes in silence, but we can foster powerful connections and teachable moments with unspoken behaviors.

What do these look like?  Here are some example “non-verbals:”

  • Moving back and forth among students.  Avoid prolonged, stagnate standing in one spot (especially the front).  Closer proximity garners more attentive students and decreases likelihood of off-task behaviors.

teacher at a student table

 

  • Open arms and hands inviting student input (as opposed to crossed arms, which convey defiance or disinterest).

open arms teacher 2

 

  • Counting on your fingers to show you expect answers and ideas from multiple students.

teacher counting on fingers.jpg

 

  • Nodding your head to acknowledge student contributions without using excessive praise.
  • Leaning toward students to express curiosity, but not looming over them in a dominating or threatening way.
  • Lowering your chin or cocking your head to one side to communicate concern and interest.

teacher eye contact

 

  • Sitting or kneeling down at the students’ level to show cooperation.

teacher at st level.jpg

 

  • Using appropriate lengths of eye contact with students, while avoiding prolonged and awkward stare downs.

teacher looking at student.jpg

 

  • Smiling!  If you enjoy teaching, show it.  (Again, avoid prolonged and awkward grins.)

teacher leaning smiling

 

For any teachers doubting the power of unspoken behaviors, posture, and expressions, I present the following challenge:  Watch a video of yourself teaching with the volume muted.  

Ask yourself what unspoken, but clearly presented messages you convey to your class.  How do you come across?  Are you respectful?  Are you confident and caring?  Are you happy to be there?

Look closer at your students and study their non-verbal behaviors too.  How much do they engage in the lesson?  How do they treat each other?  What can you learn from them?

students bored

How many students are engaged in learning?

 

Better yet, don’t wait for a video to notice these things.  As you teach, pause and survey the classroom to pick up on students’ mannerisms, posture, and expressions.  Take a moment and consider what you are communicating through these same behaviors.

Here are a few resources for further reading and ideas:

1. “Good body language improves classroom management” article by Teal Ruland, National Education Association

2. “Using effective body language to establish relationships with students” video by the Teaching Channel

 

Need more practice?  Try out your expressions and mannerisms in front of the mirror.

practice-in-front-of-mirror

Keep practicing, buddy.

 

Whatever you do, work to express warm, welcoming messages through your body language.  Your students will soon respond in kind.  Whether spoken or unspoken, every interaction counts.

 

Word Balloons

Standard

The latest superhero flick is Deadpool, which is making news for its “hard” R-rating for humor and violence.

If you don’t know much about Marvel’s “Merc with a Mouth,” here is a fun tutorial courtesy of artist Ty Templeton.

deadpool-four-panels-websize

The movie itself is doing great commercially and critically, even getting approval from Betty White herself.

bettywhitedeadpool

 

I’ll bypass seeing the film in theaters, waiting for a toned down, broadcast-friendly version on TV.  (But from the sound of things, a cleaned-up edited version would last about 15 minutes.)

The “sound of things” is actually the topic of this blog post.  Specifically,

What is the sound of your voice?

We’ve talked before about the importance of what teachers say in the classroom (namely questions).  But it’s also important to consider how you say it.

What’s your tone of voice when you talk in class?  How loud?  How fast?  How much variety?

In comic books, characters speak in “word balloons” (or “speech bubbles”), and it’s fascinating to notice the unique techniques creators use to convey dialogue on the page.

variety-of-speech-bubbles

 

Just like people, comic book heroes have unique voices, and letterers (the folks who draw word balloons) often use specific styles for particular characters.

For instance, Deadpool always speaks (and thinks) in yellow word balloons.  No one is sure what it’s supposed to sound like, aside from a mix of sarcasm and crazy.

deadpool-yellow-boxes

 

Take a moment and consider what your words would look like if someone drew balloons around them.

Are you snarky to the point of annoying?  (Do you need to tone it down?)

deadpoolyellowdisplay

 

Or maybe you’re more robotic, like the android Vision.  (Should you add more emotion?)

VisionBuckler1972 2

 

DC/Vertigo’s Sandman hero Dream (a.k.a. Morpheus) talks in wavy inverted speech bubbles.  (Are you putting your students to sleep?)

Sandman1

 

Or does your voice reflect the tenor of Ghost Rider, Marvel’s Spirit of Vengeance?  (To quote Educator Harry Wong, remember to stay “calm, real calm.”)

ghost rider balloon

 

Some teachers start quiet and docile, not maintaining healthy classroom boundaries.  And then when students get too far out of control, these teachers release a verbal attack like Marvel’s Inhumans hero Black Bolt.  (Deal with the small things sooner, so you don’t have to explode.)

bolt 1

 

Eric Wong at the Sequart Organization wrote a nifty article about the different ways comic books communicate sound.   As you examine these examples, think about the sounds in your classroom.  What is helpful?  What is hurtful or distracting?

Teachers should record their classroom instruction and interactions from time to time.  You don’t have to sit down and watch an entire lesson.  Just listen to a few minutes and notice what your students actually hear.

Acknowledge the fact that nobody likes the sound of their own voice.  (Blame science.)  But who cares?  Either out loud or in your head, ask yourself,

“What can I do to sound better?”  

Here are some ideas:

1. If your voice is monotone and flat, study television news anchors to learn about adding variety in pitch. (And drink more coffee.)

2. If you have a tendency of erupting, take a deep breath and stay calm (but firm).  (And eat more chocolate.)

3. If you have a snarky streak, save it for open mic night at the comedy club.  Students respect teachers who show them respect first.

solid word balloon

 

So whatever kind of “word balloons” you use in the classroom, make sure they fit the space and focus on learning.

word balloons