Hand Signals Anyone?

Hello, Everybody!

My name is Linda Nelson, and I am honored and thrilled to be here today, sitting in for Shuna!!
Is your classroom noisy? HAH! What a question! If you said “no”, then please let us all in on your secret! In fact, maybe you should write a book and start selling it…
Actually, a quiet classroom is not really what we should be aiming for. Children do some of their best learning when they are moving, and movement makes noise! Great conversation also makes for great learning, but even if kids are whispering, multiple conversations in a full clasroom result in  – noise!

So, the object is not to eliminate noise, but obviously a really noisy room is not the optimal environment for learning, either. So, what to do?

Here are 2 suggestions, both of which also incorporate some additional learning along the way! Both involve the use of ASL fingerspelling for classroom management. Sign language is awesome for our young learners in so many ways, many of which I’m sure you’re already familiar with. It’s kinesthetic, and engages a whole different part of the brain. It also builds empathy for those who learn differently.

Now, I’ve used both of these ideas with great success for a number of years. That being said, I’m not sure exactly where these particular ideas came from! I know that I’ve adapted them and created the posters to support them, but I’m not really sure where the germ of the ideas came from – maybe mine, maybe not… so if you were the originator, please email me and I’d be delighted to credit you… and thank you!!
* Update! Through the information kindly shared by a reader here, I’d like to connect you with a website full of amazing ideas, one of which is using sign language for classroom management. Please visit Rick Morris, author of Tools & Toys: Fifty Fun Ways to Love Your Class , at his website here, http://www.newmanagement.com/main/sign_language.html , for more information on using sign language with your class. Thank you, Rick!!
The first idea is useful all day and every day. You know when you see that waving hand in response to your question and your excitement that finally little Mikey is joing a discussion? (bet you know where I’m going with this!) So you call on Mikey and he asks to go to the restroom, and now everybody else is thinking , “Hey yeah, me, too!” – could you just cry sometimes when that happens and everybody loses focus? 

Well, teach your little guys the signs for R/ restroom and D/drink, and all you’ll need to do is respond to their signal with eye contact and a little nod that most of the other kids aren’t very likely to even notice.  Here’s a little reminder poster to use in your teaching, and to post afterward to remind kids to use the “silent signals”.  I find that after a while, just pointing to the sign and not responding to the verbal requests brings the desired (silent!) response. Also extremely useful when you are meeting with small groups!
The second use of letter signs will also cut down on distracting comments, this time during read-alouds. Students’ involvement during read-alouds and discussions at the easel seem to mostly fall into four categories:

                        a. Answering questions
                        b. Asking questions
                        c. Making a connection
                        d. Way off-topic stuff, like about the neighbor’s dog that died   
                            (audible teacher SIGH!)

Here’s a way to help your students think before they raise their hands, and maybe even eliminate many of the “d” category comments. Teach them to raise their hands making one of these letters:
It’s amazing how this will actually help each student focus his or her thoughts and help your lesson/discussion/read-aloud stay focused, too! I really love to watch kids as they learn to mentally categorize their questions. I’ve seen little guys who raise their hands forming one letter and when called on narrow their eyes with hard thinking, and say, “I changed my mind – it’s not an A, it’s a C!”. Beautiful!

Does this work every day with every child? Of course not – hey, they’re still little! But does it increase learning while reducing noise and irrelevant interruptions? You bet!

Click on the cover to download your set of posters at google docs, exclusively for you here
*Updated to add*
Hi, Shuna! Remember the note you forwarded to me from the reader who knew the source on the hand signals? Well, i checked out the site, wrote to the author, and got such a gracious reply! Linda… Thanks for the contact and your desire to share credit for the sign language idea. I applaud your refreshingly professional attitude regarding the issue of intellectual property. Granted, there are many teachers out there who have never heard of either of us but use sign language with their students. Nonetheless, I came up with the idea back in the late 80’s as a way to prioritize who I called upon. Signs enabled me to reach out first to the students with questions. Before too long it became one of the five things I would never teach without. In 1995 I wrote a book called Tools & Toys: Fifty Fun Ways to Love Your Class. The use of sign language was included as one of the fifty ideas. It’s also one of the strategies I share during the teacher effectiveness seminars I present around the country. Bottom line: I’m happy that you’re willing to send teachers to my site. At the same time, feel free to keep sharing the idea. After all, it’s not who presents the idea but more that it’s being presented and that teachers are hearing about it. BTW Since you were posting on Pocket Full of Kinders, you should check out the Kcons idea I created for kindergarten classrooms. It was a collaboration with my daughter, an artist in New York. She created 40 kid-friendly easy-to-draw symbols. Each student chooses one and uses it another way to identify himself in the classroom. There’s a free teacher’s guide on my website that explains the whole concept. You’ll also find downloadable artwork to use in the classroom. Here’s the link: http://newmanagement.com/tips/k_cons.html
Regards, Rick Rick Morris
Thanks so much for hanging in here with me today on this looong post, and many thanks again to Shuna for inviting me!

I’ve never posted my picture before. Shuna made me do it! 🙂             

0 Replies to “Hand Signals Anyone?”

  1. Great! Kids really take to sign language so easily. Did you know that in some districts it is taught as a "foreign" language option in upper grades?
    Thanks for commenting!

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