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Sometimes I'm Extra: Using Backdrops in the Secondary Classroom for Non-Verbal Communication & Cues

I can say it loud and proud-- sometimes I am extra.

Extra outside of the classroom. My personality. My worries. My dramatics. My facial expressions.

Extra inside of the classroom. My commentary on a text I am reading with students. My holiday slides templates. My Netflix and Playstation Review Resources and Games I’ve created. Again, my facial expressions.

One thing I know is when I have been looking into why this extra-ness has worked for me-- and when I say worked for me, I mean when I just got my sophomore’s End of Course Exam results back, my highest frequency grade was an A) it’s because the kids buy into my antics.

See gif below of my studnets hyping up my stupidity and extraness.

If you wanna see something really funny, here is some proof from a letter one of my former students wrote to future students during the last week of semester 1, just last month in January of 2021. I don't think it's sarcasm, who knows?

There's this one.

And then this one.

They are here for all the extra that over the top agenda slides and backdrops entailed.

I truly can't wait to convert my English content fully to match the hype of my templates.

As you know, primarily, my resources are things that can be used in the classroom for all subjects, regardless to content, objectives, or standards. Here in March, I will be sharing (fingers crossed) revamped ELA, writing, and British Literature resources. These are things that are already on my Google Drive, but are just plain and blah. I will be transforming them and working some magic into them-- making them like, gorgeous and all. Take this Google Form survey for me so I know what types of items I should begin transforming first if you are one of my English peeps.


Back to the extraness (by the way see how I got sidetracked-- cue, extra).

A while back I released a February Freebie that 161 people downloaded. I sent to all email subscribers, but in case you missed them, you can still get them here for 100% free.

I also make custom sets for teachers who want to personalize them with their name, content, images, styles, themes, and inside jokes.

To purchase a set customized to your likings and student vibes, check out the custom backdrops page on my site.

The most recent custom backdrops I finished look a little something like this:

I had a fellow teacher ask me what was the point of them, which I didn't discuss in my initial TikTok video or push to you all in an email, so here I am blogging about it a few weeks later. It is one of those things that has made sense in my head, but I haven’t ever verbalized or shared with anyone. I definitely should have because it does just seem like some random, colorful smudge of nonsense.

So here ya go, gang. You’re hearing it first-- why in the hell does KindaSortaTeacher use these loud, bright, and obnoxious backdrops (that aren’t even really backdrops, by definition) into her classroom and live meetings.

Two-ish words for y’all (I said -ish because the hyphenated word threw me off there).

Non-Verbal Communication.

And I know, you’re like… girl, just because you put words up on the smart board or cast them on a Google Meet, I don’t think that counts as non-verbal communication.

Which I mean, technically that’s true. I feel that.

So the way I have overanalyzed this in all my extraness is the non-verbal communication and social cues attached to using these backdrops in my classroom.

First, remember non-verbal communication (according to Google) counts as:

  • Facial expressions

  • Body movement and posture

  • Gestures

  • Eye contact

  • Touch

  • Space

  • Posture

And social cues are considered, "are verbal or non-verbal signals expressed through the face, body, voice, motion (and more) and guide conversations as well as other social interactions by influencing our impressions of and responses to others." That definition is from Wikipedia, don't tell my students.

With that in mind, here’s a few scenarios that I would implement these backdrops as a tool to communicate with my students.

So Boom. We have transitioned to independent work.

Once we begin, we are working hard. Going all in. The last thing I want to do is pause the class to do an all call reminder, when possibly only a few of the studnets need to hear what I am saying.

That is when these backdrops come in and force students to use narrow in to these non-verbal communication methods and social cues.

Typically I am wandering around the room, at my podium, or my desk. If during independent time, my students see me migrate to my computer and look at the board, some will grasp that means they should check out what changes have come to the board.

Without a word from myself “1, 2, 3 eyes on me” or how I blurt it out, “Ohhhh, y’all one more thing…” they can look to the board, check out the information, decide if they need to take action or adjust, then continue working.

This has taken place silently and swiftly and often eliminates questions that may have arisen during our work time.

Some students do not notice me walking to my laptop, which is fine. When they are scanning the classroom, many will use those social cues (and non-verbal skills) such as me nodding my head to the board after we make eye contact or creepily lifting my brows at them to discover there has been a change that has occurred that they ought to take notice to.

If they are sitting next to a classmate who did notice the change, often students can pick up on another’s behavior and become attentive looking about to see what they may have missed-- in this case, it wasn’t anything I said, but a cute slide that checks in, encourages, adds a reminder, or provides a tip.

Some of the things I use for these can be…

MLA Format Reminders

Music permission

Click "Turn in Reminder"

Joke to lighten the mood if it's been a day of heavy content or strong workload

encouragement, kindness, and open door policy

Still thinking this whole backdrop thing is a little extra, if I don’t have a direct instructional need, I still find a way to slip these into class.

This can be for those kids who are daydreaming, looking around, need a word of encouragement, or a virtual hug. Those are more things like the images pictured below.

And who is to say without saying a word that dropping this on the screen for students to pick up on during the course of the class is too extra?

You never know who is having a rough day. Who knows, perhaps while one of your students is staring at the girl she wished she was. Now, if that very student picks up on her idol looking at the board, then decides to take a looksy herself and reads the small message...

Something so small could change her day.

Or a one liner for a reluctant learner that they just need to try their best.

Or for the A+ student who is having a crap day-- remind them tomorrow will be better.

Those backdrops don’t seem so extra now, do they.

They carry so few words, but such a powerful punch.

Enough of the sappy stuff. If you’re still reading this, you are my people and I know my secrets are safe with you.

Here is something that is no secret to my students (but probably not well known to those who are not in our classroom for the duration of our 90 minute class sessions).

I must confess, I am a chatter by nature. I love talking to my students and asking them how life is, joking, goofing off, getting distracted and off topic. These backdrops keep me from speaking (which means I can’t get side tracked from chit chat).

So remember, non-verbal communication can be a lot of things, a recap, those include:

How can you use backdrops (or a Google Slide) to guide the beginning of class, pacing, transitions, instructional reminders, or daily wrap ups?

Feel free to comment your thoughts or ideas in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

And remember, if you want a custom set of your own backdrops where you can choose what ya want, that link is right here for ya!

Love, Hugs, and Lots of Kisses.


Ty Tiger | Kinda Sorta Teacher

1 comment

1 Comment

Amanda Brincks
Amanda Brincks
Feb 25, 2021

I just stumbled upon your blog and am totally geeked! I also appreciate your perspective because you bring up valid points that I haven't thought about: reigning in the talk and using the slides as non-verbal communication. I have a Google Slides weekly agenda for each week, but I could see myself using your slides and evolving!

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