Monday, November 14, 2011

Ooh, Ooh, Call on Me! Alternatives to Hand Raising

I have visited a few different primary and preschool classrooms this month and one thing they all have in common is the hand raising ritual. A teacher asks a question and waits for the hands to go up. Many do, some waving wildly. Many don’t, the children staring into space or playing with the rug. Some children seem to still call out, no matter the grade level. When the teacher eventually calls on a child, often he doesn’t know the answer and stumbles for a minute or so before the teacher moves onto to someone else. Sometimes the child does answer in a correct, thoughtful way, while the rest of the children zone out or anxiously wait for their own turn. The teacher is often exhausted from trying to keep the children on-task.
            Sound familiar? Besides the management challenges of controlling children's behavior, the part of this ritual that concerns me the most is that during these exchanges only one child at a time is fully engaged in the learning interaction. Young children don’t learn well from sitting and listening to others, even if they can get themselves to be able to focus on the interaction. This is an ineffective learning pattern, yet teachers repeat it because it’s so familiar and comfortable.
            Here are some better alternatives to the hand raising routine:
            Turn and Talk. After the question is asked, pairs of children turn to each other. One listens while the other answers. This way half of the class is engaged in talking, and it is easier for children to pay attention to the speaker in a paired situation. Be sure that children know ahead of time who their partner is and that they practice how to pair up. This should move quickly, so keep the pace brisk to support children staying on task. Check out this video of a kindergarten class from and notice the difference in the children’s engagement during Turn and Talk compared to when one child is talking.

            Think-Pair-Share. Similar to Turn and Talk, except that children are first given time to solve a problem or answer a question individually, then they turn to their partner, quickly share responses with each other and come up with the best or most interesting answer. Next the teacher calls on a few pairs to share with the class.
            Choral Responses. To increase student engagement and reinforce simple concepts, allow the children to respond all together. This works best for questions with one answer, and as a quick review of previously covered material.
            Individual Lapboards. Each child has a whiteboard and marker and they write down their answer to the question. Children hold up their boards so the teacher can judge how well the children are understanding the concepts.
            Cold Call. Keep a list of children’s names, put their names on cards, or sticks, and randomly pick children’s names to answer. This helps to improve the pace of the lesson, and keeps children engaged since they don’t know when they will be called on. However, it should still be used sparingly since it still suffers from the problem of only one student at a time interacting with the question.
What other alternatives have you found to hand raising?

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30 comments:

  1. Dr. Rand this is so good and i am learning so much from you. I like the cold call, and especially when we had did it in class. This really kept us thinking and kept us engaged of what was going on in the videos. If we had zone out you would've known because we would have not been able to answer your questions and how to respond. I also enjoyed the turn and talk to keep the children engaged and interacted and they were all learning and focused at the same time. These are great tools to enhance the student's education without wasting any time.

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  2. Alicia,
    I hope that you will try out some of these strategies with your preschoolers and let us know how it goes!

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  3. I was the Teacher for the Day (never a Sub - jajaja)and the students were setup in groups of four. I said, "If you know the answer raise your Right Hand, if you don't raise your Left (this ensures that ALL kids participate, even if they do not know the answer.)Then I say, "Righties, explain the answer (not just give the answer) to the Lefties in your group." Then, I'll call on a "Lefty" for the answer. If they are right or wrong, the ENTIRE group is responsible. :)

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    1. I really like this idea. I want to try it with my preschool class only using Dr. Rand's suggest with the colors. It allows everyone to have a turn speaking and getting involved. I love it!

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  4. Luiz, What a clever idea - I love it!! Great way to use cooperative learning strategies in whole group activities. With children younger than 2nd grade or so (because they still struggle with left and right), you could give the child a card with red on one side and green on the other. Then they hold up the green side if they know the answer, red if they don't - and then pair up to discuss the answer. Thanks for such a great suggestion!

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  5. I am in a 4th grade class and the wild hand raising never fails. There are always students who raise their hands but then when called on they don't even have an answer formulated for the question asked. I've noticed from different teachers in my school that the "Cold Call" method that you mentioned is used but with tongue depressors that are labeled with the students' names. I think it is a way to save time and give the students a moment to think about their answers instead of focusing so much on being called on to speak.

    I will suggest the other 4 ways to my class.

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  6. Cassandra, I'm glad you've seen teachers using cold calling using the sticks with names. This also helps to make sure you are calling on all the children, which is often hard to keep track of.

    Here's a teacher's blog with photos of the sticks:
    http://mrsfoubister.blogspot.com/2010/10/make-it-fair.html

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  7. I love the idea with of "cold calling." I am going to ask my co-op teacher if she would like to try it in her classroom. My co-op teacher told me the other day that I should try not to call on the same children all of the time during whole group. It is hard because I call on the students who usually have their hands up. I think because the students are familiar with the structure, "teacher ask questions, we have to raise our hands." So just like you said, the rule with raising hands during whole just results in the same children raising their hands. I know since you started calling our names in class randomly, I pay extra attention!:) Hopefully the cold calling will get the students who are quiet to speak more and feel comfortable during whole group time.

    I also watched the video you posted above and I thought think-pair share is a fun way for kids to socialize with each other in school.:) Thanks


    Clara M.

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  8. Dr. Rand,
    I have seen nearly all of these alternatives used in the classroom and they truly do work. I have to admit that I was inspired to create my own "lap boards" ... trying them out this week. Will let you know how it works out for me.

    (Copy & paste link to see my lap board if interested ... http://t.co/WxTWOZFF)

    Jessika

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  9. I have been using the strategy of picking the children who usually do not raise their hand. After two weeks of doing this everyone has caught on and now everyone sits and waits to see who is being called. Also when I am writing on the board, without even turning my head around and having eye contact with the person I pick I just randomly say a name. I like doing these strategies because the children have to focus since it is going to be surprise who I pick. =]

    - Cecilia Huamani

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    1. Cecilia - this is a great solution to all the negative issues involved in having children raise their hands. It sounds like you've also be able to keep the pace of the lesson moving smoothly too!

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  10. As a school counselor who visits several classrooms each day and has to carry my materials--I have used heavy duty, plastic disposable plates (picnic plates) as dry erase boards in the past for short answer responses. This is a great money saver and the plates stack in a smaller space or gallon size ziploc bag.

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    1. Hi Su - thanks for the GREAT idea. I wanted to use personal response boards in my college classes, too and I will try this out. This is a terrific idea for teachers will little space and little budgets!!

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  11. Hello Dr. Rand,
    This is very intresting, I was suprised to read about the individual lapboards. I went to school over-seas for my primary years, from Pre-K thru 5th grade. And we used to use the lapboards during classes there too. But we used the chalk one, not the ones you mentioned. They were a little messy but it really worked because we all wrote our own answers, and we were all participating in the class. I really think it's a great idea for teachers to use it more in their classrooms today, I know I can't wait to try it in mine one day.

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    1. Kenza, How true about the individual lapboards being old-fashioned! It definitely is the same idea as the individual slates that schools used to use. Some ideas really stand the test of time!

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  12. The following website is another example of a "Cold Call" but the students love watching the computer randomly choose a name. I just have a class list saved that I copy and paste in here. Then you can choose to either keep the name in or remove it after they've been picked.

    http://www.classtools.net/education-games-php/fruit_machine

    I also have them do things like cross their arms, hands on their hand, stand up, etc. when they know the answer. I have found there is more accountability, and it gives me a chance to see how quickly they are coming up with answers (and it forces me to give wait time!)

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    1. Wow, thanks for the terrific information. I love the idea of the class name on the smart board. I bet the kids love it too - making it more like a game. Your ideas for showing they know the answer are also clever. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  13. These are some wonderful ideas and I have used many of them successfully in my Grade One classroom. I have also used the strategy of "cold call" on occasion but am weary of it because of so many kids with such high anxiety... I know as a child, I was always paying attention, but when the teacher used a strategy like that, it would stress me out to the point that it was hard to focus on what was going on because I was so nervous about whose name might get pulled out of the can. I do not want to create that anxiety in kids and although, not many of them have that extreme of anxiety - there are still some in the class that do and that is not the atmosphere that I want to have in my class. I want all kids to feel safe. Just a thought!!!

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    1. I agree that cold calling needs to be used judiciously. It tends to work best for simple responses, such as a quick review, rather than more thoughtful responses (which work better with think-pair-share, for example). In any case, if you find that children are anxious, then I totally agree that you should do something else. Thanks for that important advice!

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  14. I use craft sticks with names on them in my third grade classroom. The are inside a small plastic cup, which is inside a larger plastic cup. When I pull a stick from the smaller cup and call a name I can then drop the stick into the larger cup, This way the sticks stay together. Before using this strategy, I would have some sticks on the projector, some on my desk, some on the table...etc. I also have "stolen" some vocabulary from a popular game show. When a cold call appears to have stumped the student, I ask if he or she wants to "phone a friend" (another student in the class) or ask the expert (me). Most of the time another student is called on to answer the question.

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  15. Love these ideas. I teach older children with special needs. The cold call is not always best idea for kids with processing issues. Also, one more I'd like to add is not raising hands at all and having students figure out how to talk in a group without raising hands.

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    1. Patty, Great idea to have the children figure out how to talk in a group. When you've done this in the past, what did they come up with?

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  16. Great ideas! Have you seen these on TpT? http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/PBISTriangle-Desk-Alert-SystemDistraction-Free-Student-AssistanceTraffic-725100

    They are great for independent practice and certainly keep students from waiving their papers at me in anger. There are also a few cute themes, like rock and roll and space too.

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    1. Kellie, your Desk Alert System is a terrific idea for children who are old enough to understand it. I will share this with my student teachers!

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  17. One of my favorite ideas was a "Thumbs up down low" the kids set a thumb up on their desk or close in front of them if not at their desks when they have the answer rather than waving hands in the air. I find that it helped keep their energy contained. Another that I have been seeing in kindergarten classrooms is holding the answer like holding a breath, the teacher counts, and everyone releases the answer in a whisper together. They do this in addition to the think-pair-share and other ideas I saw listed here.

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    1. Two great ideas, Ashley. I'm very focused on now on how to teach children self-regulation and these are both perfect for getting children to control their impulses.

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  18. I am a children's minister in a small town. I have children 4 years to 11 years all together. I easily get annoyed at all the hand waggling and have inadvertently tried other things, including small group 4-5 discussion followed by answers on lap boards, raising or moving different body parts, etc. I love some of these suggestions and will be sure to use them! My daughter is in first grade, she is incredibly bright and incredibly anxious, raising her hand is a nightmare for her! I so appreciate that someone understands and is seeking to develop different ways to assess knowledge. Thank you so much, I can't wait to read more!

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    1. Deborah - you have a tough job with such a broad spread of ages so I can see where you need a lot of alternative strategies. If you find anything else that works particularly well be sure to share with us!

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  19. Hi Dr. Rand. I'm in a Pre-K classroom and we use the choral responses method frequently. Sometimes we used the hand raising, but since I started taking your class this semester, I have use it less, and use the method mentioned above(choral responses) more. We also used the method turn and talk but I did not it was called like this before. I'm so glad I'm taking this class. We should had taken this class like in the beginning or maybe in the middle of our journey of becoming teachers, because some of us are already working in the education setting and getting all the knowledge I'm getting now, would have been so much helpful.

    Thanks

    Raquel Peña

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