I started using this sign language method when I was in my first year teaching. I soon realized I needed a strategy to identify what students wanted when they raised their hands. Searching the Internet, I found this idea, which I modified a bit to fit the needs in my classroom.
I created these posters and placed them in the front of my classroom for the students to see. I probably should have also put them in the back so I could learn them because for the first few days, I found myself referring to them too. Each hand sign refers to a letter of the alphabet - a for answer, b for bathroom, c for comment, d for drink, q for question, and p for pencil. This is how it works.
Let's refer back to that scenario I mentioned earlier. I ask a question and expect an answer. Students raise their hands. I can scan through their hands and I can see those who are raising their hand to add a comment, a few students who have the answer, two students with questions, and one that needs to use the bathroom. I can easily skip some of those students for a minute and focus on the ones with the questions, since I want to make sure they understand what is being asked. Now, the questions are answered and I look over to the boy with his hand up to use the bathroom. I can shake my head yes or no (since he knows that I know what he wants) or hold up my finger to let him know he can go in a minute. No time wasted and I can still move on to students with answers without anyone even saying a word. I find a student who provides the correct answer. If I want, I can choose a student or two to add a comment, or I could just let them know that I'll save comments for the end of the lesson.
Easy, right? This really worked well with me since in my first year I had problems with pacing and lessons taking longer than expected. During a future observation, my principal commented on how much that strategy really worked for me and she was so impressed by how nicely it was implemented.
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