Being Able To Read Students & Body Language

Hi everyone. This (non-math) post is about reading students and body language. Although I have not taken a psychology course, I do find this topic of body language somewhat interesting. Being knowledgeable on body language is an asset and can help you in life.


Parts of this post may not be accurate nor helpful. Contents are from my head, tutoring experiences, teaching assistance experiences and based from what I read from the books in the Reads And References below.

Featured Image Source


  • Introduction / Background
  • On Non-Verbal Communication
  • A Variety Of Personalities
  • Signs & Adaptation Strategies
  • Reads And References

Introduction / Background

I remember an older math student telling me in university that a useful skill is being able to read professors. At the time, I did not think too much of it nor did I try to read people better. It took me a bit later to expose myself to some body language books. I got into reading some body language books as a hobby. My main motivation was that I wanted to get a better read on people.

In the last section of this post, I will mention a list of books that I have read which has some interesting things.

On Non-Verbal Communication

Communication is not limited to speaking and writing. A good chunk of communication is done non-verbally and through body actions. (It is sometimes risky to communicate verbally.)
Some of these non-verbal movements can be obvious and others can be hard to spot or appear for a short time.

A Variety Of Personalities

When it comes to working with students, there are a wide variety of personalities to work with. Some are loud, some are quiet, some are expressive, some are not as expressive, some are extroverted and some are introverted.

The ones who communicate a lot are not too difficult to read as they put themselves out there. When it comes to those who are more reserved and don't show much emotion, it is an asset to have knowledge of body language.

Signs & Adaptation Strategies

This section deals with some signs and some strategies for dealing with these cases.

Sad Face

Sad Face Image Source

This sad face expression can be the result of:

  • Being mean to the student
  • Poor results / Too Many Mistakes
  • Shame
  • Emotional moments.

When a student is sad, the tutor / educator should be very careful with their actions and words. You want to try your best to help the student.

Happy Face

Students are happy and show smiles from:

  • Good Results
  • Achievements
  • Getting answers right.
  • Finishing a long and hard problem.
  • Something / Someone made them laugh.

Happy Face Image Source

In most cases, happy students are a result from the student's hard work along with good guidance from the teacher / educator / tutor. It is best to praise the student but to also keep them focused so they can have continued success.

Bored Students

Bored Student Image Source

Not everything is fun and exciting. There are times when students are not engaged nor care about the subject being worked on. As seen in the above photo, students would most likely have one hand on their chin, not pay attention and look like they are about to sleep.

This case can be difficult as it may not be possible to eliminate the boredom completely for the student(s). I suggest strategies such as:

  • Adding variety to how information is presented.
  • Including real-life / practical examples.
  • Avoid monotone speaking. Add more expression to speaking.

Tired Students

Tired Student Image Source

There are times when the energy is not there for whatever reason. Signs of fatigue include hands on face, sleepy eyes, lazy movements, lack of focus, slow responses and so on.

Tired students should be encouraged to do work to the best of their abilities. I don't think it is fair to expect maximum performance from someone who is not at their best. Avoid harsh criticism.

Quiet But Annoyed Students

You do get cases where students are annoyed by other students who may be loud, too talkative or annoying. These annoyed students may not say anything but it can show on their faces. They would look at what is going on and stare or maybe make facial expressions of disgust. (I could not find a good photo to illustrate this.)

There are more cases out there. It would be best to refer to books for more information.

Reads, References

Here are a couple of books and websites that I have read (or skimmed) and learned some bits and pieces on body language.

  • The Definitive Book of Body Language: The Hidden Meaning Behind People's Gestures and Expressions By Barbara Pease and Allan Pease
  • What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People By Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
  • Body Language 101: The Ultimate Guide to Knowing When People Are Lying, How They Are Feeling, What They Are Thinking, and More by David Lambert
  • Body Language For Dummies by Elizabeth Kuhnke

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