April 8, 2016

Beyond the Classroom Discussion: Hand Signals

Yesterday, I wrote this post about Participation Tracking. This is a great tool to help keep up with which of your students are participating and encourage those who are not likely to participate to reflect on their participation and try to improve it.

My sister and I were talking about this tool right after I blogged about it. She's a speech-language pathologist, and the implications it has for collecting social data really excited her. Anyways, I digress. But in our conversation, we both realized that throughout most of our schooling, we were the ones who didn't participate. The smart and shy kids who never had to speak up, and who got to keep being shy and quiet because no one required us to speak up. She said "I feel like that really did a disservice to me, you know?" And I totally agree.

But, we all know there is more to education and student participation than the traditional "class discussion" where one person speaks and others listen and hopefully respond. While I will stick by this method for higher-order discussions, Socratic-style lessons, and constructive lessons, I know that there is plenty of opportunity in the elementary classroom for "All Students Respond" types of participation.

Today, I want to share some of the ways I use hand signaling (or other body signals) to ensure that all students think and respond in a quick and easy way. Keep reading!

Yes or No?

This is an easy one. Are you asking a Yes or No question? Asking the class if they agree with the statement made by either you or a peer? Tell them to show you by using the sign language signal for yes and no.

Count to Show

Ask students to show you "how any ways you can think of" or "how many things you can tell me about" by thinking and putting a finger up for every way. For example, during a Science lesson, you might instruct kids to think of as many examples of how solar energy is used and put a finger up for each way as they think it.

ABC or 123

Playing a multiple choice game or quiz? Teach students how to show the letter choices for AB and C using the American Sign Language Alphabet. Or T and F. Or just have them show 1, 2, or 3 instead! It's an easy way for everyone to get involved!

New Signals for Old Routines

Have you got something that you do weekly or daily that you and the class could come up with signals to show? I use Wilson Fundations for phonics and spelling. In this program, we code all sorts of syllable types! Closed, open, v-e, r-controlled, double vowel.... Anyways, if we are ever spelling and marking words with the classroom letter tiles, I will ask them quickly "Which syllable type?" and they will use one of our symbols to show me. They ended up being a mix of ASL and some other ideas for us! This one has the potential to be a lot of fun because you can get a little silly: signals like sticking your tongue out, making a llama, etc. can breathe a little more fun into simple activities!

A note about ASL:

The Deaf Community is a rich, vibrant, and proud Culture, so we must be very careful when using their language in our classrooms. Cultural appropriation and/versus appreciation can be a hot topic, and so it is important to be knowledgeable about these issues.
Deaf Culture
American Sign Language Article on Wikipedia

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