Hello, Hand Symbols! There’s no doubt that movement is a large piece of my teaching style, but one little trick that has truly stepped up my management and critical thinking skills is a simple thing called hand symbols. When I first started teaching, I used hand symbols for maintenance type interruptions: bathroom, water, tissue, etc. I found that using these silent symbols helped keep the momentum going in my lessons and it didn’t waste any time. Students held up a symbol and I either nodded my head yes or no if it was okay for them to move at that time.
However, over the past few years I decided to step up my game with hand symbols. I realized that we could still keep the urgency and energy up in my classroom without interruptions while also challenging students to think critically. For example, if students agree or disagree with an answer, they complete certain hand motions. I can easily see who is disagreeing and call on them for clarification or to defend their idea. It’s a great assessment to see how my students are feeling about a certain question or topic. Also, students have to categorize their thinking by showing if they are about to say a question, comment, or answer before they are called on. I love when students are metacognitive and it helps me take a pulse on my class. Hand symbols keep my students accountable to be active participants in the classroom!
One of our favorite symbols in my classroom right now is for complete sentences. If students do not speak in a complete sentence, students place their hands like a triangle under their chin and it signals the student to rephrase with a complete sentence. They LOVE catching each other!
I realize that writing about movements is much more difficult than just showing you! I found a fabulous resource that shows many of the symbols that I mention here in action. Hand Symbol Video
If you’re not using hand symbols in your classroom, I would highly recommend utilizing them throughout the day!