Body language in Physical Education

Physical education should not mean exercising from the first to the last minute, as there are other activities that are worth incorporating, such as body language. Training the body to communicate thoughts, without the need for words, is excellent for children and young people, so it should be part of physical education.

School, as everyone knows, is a place to learn; however, among so many books, it’s easy to forget that learning at the school level is not just about memorizing facts and using equations. When it comes to learning, there are many other things to consider.

Bearing in mind the comprehensive needs of children and young people, physical education was incorporated into the school curriculum many years ago and has been evolving to better adapt to the well-being of all students.

Many people still have the mistaken idea that physical education is limited only to the practice of different sports for a while. However, body movement does not only refer to this and, for this reason, the body expression of children and adolescents should be promoted to be part of conventional physical education.

What is body language?

This is a discipline that, through the expressive movement of the body, achieves the effective communication of emotions. All this is achieved through body language.

The activity encompasses many movements, gestures and behaviors that allow the manifestation of different thoughts or emotions, found in the conscious and the subconscious. Facial expressions, body posture, body gestures and movement count.

It is necessary to mention that corporal expression precedes written and spoken communication. In fact, it is considered the oldest form of communication. Therefore, although discipline can often be seen as a form of introspection, it is also an instrument to communicate with the environment and with other people.

Types of body expression

The American psychologists Ekman and Friesen, in 1969, summarized body expression and non-verbal communication in 5 types of gestures to facilitate the understanding of this topic.

1) Emblem gestures:

As its name suggests, these types of gestures are called emblematic because they can replace verbal language without the need for many explanations, since they have a specific meaning.

An example of this would be nodding or giving a thumbs up.

2) Illustration gestures:

Unlike the first gestures, whose purpose is to substitute for verbal language, the illustrative gestures are there to accompany it.

These occur naturally and unconsciously, managing to enrich what is being said. For example, moving your hands when speaking to emphasize something.

3) Regulation gestures:

These gestures are used to facilitate and encourage interaction between people. For example, shaking hands is a way of greeting and starting communication.

4) Adaptation gestures:

Adaptive gestures are a way we have to manage our emotions, either by touching a part of our body or manipulating an object.

These are usually qualified as nervous tics, when they are repetitive gestures that increase in moments of tension. Usually, adaptive gestures are a form of emotional control.

5) Affective gestures:

Finally, gestures that manifest affection, like those of adaptation, help us with emotions. However, while adapters allow us to regulate our emotionality, affective ones exist to show feelings to other people.

A hug, holding hands, a look… all this can refer to gestures of affection and are necessary expressions in socialization.

Body language activities in physical education

Body expression is an activity that should not be left aside in education, as it is something that allows students, regardless of age, to strengthen their self-knowledge, improve self-concept and better regulate emotions.

It is necessary to take into account that, due to the lack of emotional maturity in the student stage, students could experience embarrassment when practicing certain group activities that could be considered “unusual”. Therefore, achieving children’s body expression in a healthy way requires creating a pleasant and safe environment for it. For that, body expression games with music can be a good idea.

1) The dance

Dancing, even if it is a lot of fun, is still quite a complete exercise, so it is an appropriate activity to do in physical education. This not only manages to condition the body, but also fosters the creativity and confidence of the participants.

Teenagers often have prejudices about dance, in terms of gender, for example. They can also be defensive if they are embarrassed. Because of this, adult-led dancing can be a good way to help them get rid of all these negative thoughts.

For the little ones, using children’s games with music and movement can be a good way to get started in dance and, in addition, it will help them not to acquire the prejudices that adults sometimes have, making the activity natural.

When working on dance in physical education, there needs to be a balance between the direction of the teacher and the improvisation of the students. Encouraging them to find their voice and valuing their ideas, as this is the basis of corporal expression.

A positive aspect of this activity is that you can experiment with different rhythms, so that students find the one they like best.

By dancing, participants will be able to improve their physical, social, cognitive, and emotional skills and have a lot of fun.

2) The mime

Another activity that, although not considered an exercise, could be a good option is mimicry.

Using children’s games with music and movement, it is possible to make children use mimicry, motivating them to express their feelings, recognize situations and emotions with a specific melody, and all this without any words.

Additionally, depending on how it’s done, it can even be a great stretching activity, as even the muscles in your face will be working out.

To carry out any activity of corporal expression, you really do not need to have a specific skill . Therefore, any student can take part. Just put on some good sweatpants or shorts to facilitate movement, lose embarrassment, increase confidence and have maximum fun expressing yourself with your body.

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