HAND SIGNALS {Classroom Management Tips}

I could sing the praises of using hand signals in the classroom all day.

But, I'm tone deaf and it would hurt your ears.

Seriously though, if you do only one new thing this year to improve classroom management it should be implementing hand signals. In the past I have written a few different blog posts about my love of them. I thought it would be a great idea to merge them into one post for simplicity sake.

{Click to Access and Download: Hand Signals Bundle}

Also, I had lots of requests to make a "Me Too" Sign...happy to oblige.

In my classroom we use three different types of hand signals:
A "Me Too" Signal for Peer Communication During Class Conversations

I created a video to better explain how I use hand signals to communicate daily needs. Click to view...

Using hand signals in the classroom helps to create a learning environment with minimal distraction. I’ve been using them for as long as I can remember and they are an essential part of my classroom management system.
The students communicate their basic needs using five numbered hand signals. This eliminates the need to interrupt the class while allowing me to be aware of the location of each student at all times.

I ask that they do not request to get a drink or use the bathroom (unless it is an emergency) during read alouds, whole group instruction, or when they are working in a small group with me so that they do not miss part of a lesson. It is important to discuss what an actual emergency entails or you will have your friends claiming that it is always an emergency. The majority of my instruction is done in the form of shorter mini-lessons so this is never a problem.
By using the hand signals, students are able to let me know what they need by holding up a specific number of fingers. I am able to simply look at them and nod to acknowledge their request. I can do this without stopping what I am doing. This is important as I am frequently working with other students.
In the past I have experimented with simply allowing them to move around as needed, but there were always a few students who took advantage of that. They would get off task and wander the room to get a drink or a tissue to avoid working on something. This then distracted others from their work. The hand signals are an added step to prevent off task behaviors. Knowing that I am aware of their actions eliminates impulsive behaviors associated with wandering.


Here's how it goes down. You're in your meeting area with all of your friends gathered round. You're executing a riveting lesson and ask a question of the group. Hands go up. You're psyched. You call on one and the child says (in a sing-songy voice), "This one tiiiime..." He then launches into a story that doesn't relate to your lesson. You call on the next raised hand and hope that she will provide the answer you so anxiously await. Instead you hear, "Why does the...?"

I use hand signals during my lessons to identify what my friends want to verbalize so I can pick and choose who to call on to maximize instructional time.

Instead of simply raising their hand to let me know they want to speak, they hold up a letter sign to let me know what it is they want to say.

The letter I represents, "I have a question."

The letter A represents "Answer."

The letter C represents "Comment."

There are two benefits to this. The obvious is that I know what they are going to contribute and can call on someone with an answer vs a comment if I am looking for an answer. It also lets me know who has a legit question as opposed to who wants to tell me something that may or may not relate to the topic.

The other benefit is that it allows the students to identify what they want to say. It makes them aware and really cuts down on distraction and commentary that can set us off task. They don't just shoot their hand up. I've also found that it eliminates the raised hand followed by, "uuhhhh...I forget."

{Click to access and download: Me Too Hand Signal Printable}
You know how a student will say something and 15 other hands shoot up because they make a connection? The "me too" sign allows those 15 youngsters to let you and everyone in the room know that they also did whatever the speaker did or that they also like whatever the speaker likes. It's a great way to keep everyone on task, yet it lets them "be heard."

When I child says something like, "I like pizza," other students give them the "me too" sign which lets them know they like pizza too.

I also use it when a child answers a question. Other students who had the same answer or agree with the speaker will give the "Me Too" sign.

By request I created a sign to remind students of the signal. It coordinates with the "I Have a..." signs.


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