The teacher asks a question. She expects the children to raise their hands to answer. A few years back, I read about a teacher who had a “no hand raising policy.” I can’t remember exactly what the piece said. But I remember thinking – I like this. Kids don’t always have to raise their hands to answer questions. I didn’t use the hand raising practice all the time during instruction. So the no hand raising system made sense to me, and I became more purposeful in what I was doing with questions and answering.
My students already did choral responses. This is where I would ask a question, and all the kids could respond with the answer together. This provides a safety net for students when answering. Looking at the group I could take note of those who were not responding or gave the wrong answer. No attention was brought to the individual students, but I made a note of it in my mind.
I also made a practice of calling on individual students – no raising of hands. All children were expected to contribute; students knew they would be called upon for their thinking in all subject areas – every day. They did not mind. Why? Number one – I practiced wait time. Children were given time to think about what I was asking and were given time to make connections in their brains. If I thought the answer was not what I expected, I continued to question so I could see their thinking. Often times, I would even say – “Ohhhh, now I see your thinking!” They began to understand when I said, “Let me see your thinking.” Which actually meant - explain further. After all the questioning, the last resort was that students could say – pass. Again I made a mental note, and did not chastise for using the pass. Sometimes kids would say, “I don’t know.” Again, I would question. The point is – all students (even those of varying abilities) were expected to share their thinking.
The most important reason I liked the no hand raising policy was that I liked discussion. Discussions had a flow when a student would respond and then another student and another student. It was a “conversation” that emerged. Socratic seminars (a form of discussion) can be taught to students. I have read up on this practice – but have not actually implemented this practice in its pure form.
Were there ever times when I had children raise their hands? Yes – there were still times when I had children raise their hands. But for the most part, my classroom was a no hands raised classroom. When I am with a group of friends, I don’t raise my hand to speak. I have to admit I never liked it in professional development when I had to raise my hand. It’s just something to think about.