Whether you teach elementary, middle, or high school, classroom hand signals make a helpful addition to just about any classroom management plan.
When teaching a class full of active students, there happen to be a lot of moving parts: you’re instructing, a couple of students have a question, another needs to go to the bathroom, someone needs to sharpen a pencil, a table group needs your assistance, and the list goes on.
There is so much going on that it can feel chaotic at times.
You do your best to address every student’s issue, but it’s almost impossible to be in more than one space at a time.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way of communicating that simultaneously allows the teaching and learning process to flow with minimal distractions?
That’s where classroom hand signals come in.
Hand signals encourage teachers and students to engage non-verbally.
Doing so is effective in reducing distractions.
Students may ask a question, make a comment, or communicate their needs without interrupting the teacher.
Additionally, classroom hand signals serve as a good special education accommodation or as a strategy for limited-English language learners who may not yet feel too comfortable communicating in spoken word.
As you can see, the use of hand signals makes the classroom a more productive and inclusive place as it relates to learning and communication, respectively.
Hand Signal Posters For Classroom
To get started with using hand signals in your classroom, check out my free classroom hand signal posters.
- This teaching resource includes 32 hand signal posters: 16 in a dark skin tone and 16 in a light skin tone. They are each sized 8.5 x 11 inches.
- Though each poster includes pre-written text, you are free to customize the editable files using your own text.
- Below you will find a bank of phrases that you may want to try as you customize the printable hand signals for classroom use.
- These classroom management hand signals pair well with any classroom theme, color scheme, or decor.
- NOTE: In order to access the editable hand signal posters, you need a Google Slides account. Once you log into your Google account, click the download link. You’ll be asked to make a copy. The copy will immediately download into your main drive.
Tips for Using Classroom Hand Signals
- Ideally, you want to begin incorporating hand signals at the beginning of the school year. However, they may be started at any time.
- Schedule time in your lesson plans to introduce and practice each one.
- Display the posters in a visible place so that they serve as a readily-available resource for students.
- There is no need to use all of the signals. Utilizing just a few is just as effective.
Classroom Hand Signals
Following are the classroom hand signals included in the printable download. You will see a suggestion of how to use each.
All of the hand signal posters are editable and may be printed in PDF format.
Hand Signals for Students
- I need help. – Students use this hand signal to show they need help with an assignment. It could also mean that they used the Ask 3 Before Me Method and are still confused.
- I need a (insert any school supply needed for assignment). – Students use this hand signal when they need to access materials or a resource in order to complete an assignment.
- I have a question.
- I’m still thinking. – This hand signal is useful during class discussions. When the teacher asks a question and a student is not yet ready to answer, he or she may use this signal.
- I have a comment. – This hand signal is a good one for class discussions or for when students need to relay a quick, important message. Instead of raising a hand, students use this gesture to show that they have a comment.
- I have an answer. – Another great hand signal for group discussions, this gesture lets others know that the student has a response to a question.
- Got it! – This signal shows that a student understands a concept or no longer needs assistance.
- I have a concern. – This signal could be used for students who need to go to the nurse or who have another concern that needs attention soon.
- I would like clarification about something. – This evaluative hand signal shows that a student needs more help in understanding a concept or idea. This signal works well in whole group discussions. However, students may of course use it when working independently.
- I need to go to the bathroom.
- I’m hurt. – This hand signal may be used as a gesture for getting permission to go to the nurse.
- Agree – This hand gesture, which pairs with the thumbs down “disagree” hand signal, works well during group discussions and whole group lessons. Students simply hold up a thumb to show if they are in agreement with a statement.
- Disagree – If students disagree with a statement during a whole class lesson or group discussion, they use a hands-down signal.
- May I get a tissue, please?
- May I go get a drink of water?
- May I sharpen my pencil?
- I need a moment, please. – If it’s time to transition to another activity, students may use this gesture.
- I am finished with my work. – This gesture signals to the teacher that the child is done with his class assignment and ready for the next task.
- Add your own text. – Once you download the editable files, you’ll be able to change the text. The example below shows where you can edit the text.
Additional Classroom Management Hand Signal Phrases For Students
Here are a few more phrases that you may find useful as you customize your posters.
- I need something out of my backpack.
- I need to go to the nurse.
- I’m not yet ready. – This phrase is well-suited for when students need a bit more time transitioning from one task to the next.
- I understand clearly now. – This feedback-type hand signal may be used by students after receiving help.
- I’m still working.
- I need a bit more time.
- I would like a challenge, please. – For advanced learners, this signal could prove very helpful.
- I’m moving on to an early finisher activity. – Implement a hand gesture that signals that a student has completed assigned work and is now ready to begin an extension activity.
- I am ready for the next activity or task.
- May I go to the library?
- May I work on the carpet?
Hand Signals for Teachers
Teachers may want or need to have their own unique hand signals for students.
Here are a few helpful phrases you may want to use with your own gestures.
- Quiet, please.
- Would you please wait a moment? – Use a hand signal to show that a child needs to wait a moment before you can assist her.
- Come to the carpet.
- Please stop talking. – This is a good signal for communicating with small groups. Some teachers don’t like to use it toward individual students as it singles them out.
- Yes – This gesture is used to answer students’ questions in a non-verbal way.
- No – A “no” signal is used similarly to the “yes” gesture.
Utilizing hand signals in the classroom is a powerful strategy that supports just about any classroom management plan.
What’s more, these gestures work well within class discussions and conversations that need to be inclusive of non-verbal and verbal interactions.
When you’re ready to try these signals in your classroom, download the classroom hand signals here.