We are constantly trying to find good tips to help us with classroom management in the classroom. Something that is often discussed is the concept of classroom management hand signals. It’s genius, really. Classroom management hand signals are signals that teachers use to help them control the class without saying a word. It’s an extremely simple concept, but a highly effective one.
The concept of classroom management transcends across different grades, subjects, and levels. While there are several pros to consider before deciding whether or not to use hand signals in your own class, it is important to note that neither have any cons or drawbacks that are not easily worked around.
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The Benefits of Classroom Management Hand Signals
There are many benefits to using classroom management hand signals. You can give them a quick glance to keep yourself composed and running smoothly throughout your class, without disrupting the flow of the lesson by talking. As teachers, we deal with difficult questions and situations on a daily basis.
Sometimes, students ask hard-hitting questions that we don’t have an answer to, so we need a moment to come up with the right words. Other times, students just ask a question at the wrong time or in a way that is disruptive and rude. Whatever the case may be, classroom management hand signals help you regain control of your class by keeping them quiet and waiting for you to answer the question.
Another benefit is that students don’t have to wait until they’re called on to give an answer, which increases participation from students who may not always feel comfortable speaking.
There are many classroom management hand signals, but it’s important to find ones that your students will find appropriate for their age level. If you try using classroom management hand signals that are too difficult for the students to keep up with, they will not be effective. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your students feel that the process is too juvenile, it not only won’t have the effect you are looking for but may cause even more classroom management issues (especially if the students begin to mock them in the process).
There are a wide variety of classroom management hand signals, since teachers have different personalities and teaching styles they can choose from what works best for them.
Classroom management hand signals are an extremely effective way of teaching classroom management without having to speak. If you can’t tolerate the silence, there are only a few simple phrases you could say instead of using hand signals, but it’s arguably better if you don’t have to say anything at all. The great part about using classroom management hand signals is that they do not require any prep work other than deciding on an appropriate set of signals and communicating them to your students.
All you have to do is find a few different hand signs and let your students know what they mean!
Classroom Management Hand Signals: How to Use Them in Class
There is no “right” or “wrong” way of using classroom management hand signals, but here are a few tips on how you could effectively implement classroom management hand signals in your class:
1. Let the students know what the classroom management hand signals mean.
2. Have different hand signs for things like calling on students, walking around the room, etc. This way you won’t have to cross your arms or make some other sort of physical statement to indicate that you need to stop talking before you leave the room (this is particularly helpful when walking around the room).
3. Don’t be afraid to use the phrase “I need a minute” if you are stumped on how you want to handle one of your students. If there is no hand signal for what you are feeling, simply let them know that you need a minute before using another hand signal to either handle the student or continue with what you were doing.
4. If a student has a question, the signal should either be for them to hold up their hand until they are called on or for them to raise their hand and wait patiently until you acknowledge them.
Because classroom management hand signals are meant to help teachers but not disrupt the flow of the lesson, their use will depend on your own discretion. If you feel that using them would be disruptive, don’t hesitate to ignore or answer a student’s question without having to use hand signals at all.
Classroom Management Hand Signals for Younger Grades
Using hand signals in younger grades is certainly easier to implement because the younger a student is, the more interested they are in being silly and buying into a concept like this.
That isn’t to say older kids couldn’t benefit from this idea too. It could simply be adapted in the form of more grown-up gestures for middle and high school students, i.e., the teacher holds up four fingers when he wants students to start talking instead of one or two fingers, etc., which we will talk about in a minute.
Here are some quick, easy ideas for classroom management hand signals for the younger kiddos.
“Take 5”: Students will take 5 seconds to stop what they are doing, put their hand on their head, and think about the way they are currently acting. *This is great for getting students attention quickly*
“Slice of Cheese”: For this classroom management hand signal, you use your pointer finger and thumb to look like an ‘L’ on one side of your head, and then you quickly swipe it across your neck. It’s a sign that says “you’re going to get in trouble” or “I’m going to send you down to the office”.
Another awesome one is the “shhh” hand signal… Students will cover their mouths with their hands while saying shh really loudly.
All of these classroom management hand signals are super easy to implement. You can even make up your own! The possibilities are endless with classroom management hand signals, so use them all and choose ones that work best for your class.
As always, remember that these are only suggestions. If you see something that doesn’t work for your class, go ahead and try something else! That’s the great part about teaching in the classroom: if something doesn’t seem to work, you can tweak it and try again. In younger children, take your time implementing these changes over the course of a few days. When you do, they’ll become second nature in no time!
Classroom Management Hand Signals for High School
It’s important to remember that students in high school will require more specific and defined classroom management hand signals.
One great one is checking your watch when a student is not being respectful of your time, for example, being a distraction or coming to class late.
Another great hand signal for high school students is holding up your pinky finger to show that it’s time for them to speak in turn. For example, if you are asking a question and one student is answering too many times or talking over everyone, then they need to know that it’s time for them to stop talking. All you have to do is hold up your pinky and they will be able to tell that it’s now their turn to speak. They might not always be right, but it teaches students how to listen and wait for their turn.
Another good idea is to use personality traits as classroom management hand symbols. If you are constantly noticing that one student is always talking too much, then have them hold up their pointer finger to show that they are being “hyper” or talkative. If another student is constantly distracting everyone by tapping their pencil, then have them open and close their hand once to show that they are messing around.
If you’re looking for a fun way to help your students remember these signals, try turning it into a game. The next time you use one of your classroom management hand signals, ask everyone to guess what it means and see how many they can get right!
Remember that every class is different and each will require its own specific set of classroom management hand signals. The way that you manage your classroom may be drastically different than someone else, so feel free to explore and find something that works best for you.
Just make sure to put yourself in your students’ shoes when creating them, and add signals that will benefit everyone in the room so that it’s a win-win situation for all involved.
Classroom Management Hand Signals and the 4 Keys
Finding classroom management hand signals that will work for your students isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge that releases twice per year. It is called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.