This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.
Using hand signals in the classroom will help 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.
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.
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