6 ways to make ‘no hands up’ work

Image by Benjaminasmith via flickr

My school has a policy of ‘no hands up.’

Put simply a teacher doesn’t ask a question to the class and then pick a student from the several that have their hands up.

It’s hard habit for both teachers and students to break.

The kids have been taught if they want to speak in school, the polite thing to do is put their hand up. Likewise as teacher it can be easy to just talk to the kids who have their hands up. Such is the power of this practice.

There are some big problems with ‘hands up.’

Firstly the children who are confident get a disproportionate amount of teacher time at the expense of those who are shy. It enables kids to disengage with learning conversations simply by not putting their hands up. I also find that kids with their hands up are often so busy thinking about their question they’ve missed valuable pieces of information while waiting to ask.

Talk less
This might sound obvious, but you lecture way more than you think you do. Set yourself a timer for any whole class chats and stick to it.

Random picker
I’m not a huge fan of class dojo for the reasons Pernille Ripp has outlined in this post. I do use the random choice function. I don’t display the scores in class but rather use it as a data tool for myself to ensure I’m interacting with a broad range of kids in my class. Names on ice-cream sticks/pebbles etc. works as a low-tech solution.

Bubble catcher
The kids have their bubble catchers with them. If they have a question they can write it down to ask me, or better yet another child, later.

The backchannel

I’ve used Todaysmeet with Year 3/4 as a way for the kids to ask questions and discuss ideas with each other  on twitter-like chat room.

Think, pair, share

An oldy but a goody, get the kids to talk to each other about the questions you pose.

A Harkness discussion

A guided group discussion where an observer tracks discussion over time, offering input to the group about the quality of the discussion.


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