In the classroom, raised hands are the classic method students use to let the teacher know they are ready to answer a question. However, in some classrooms they can become a barrier for some students to attempt to answering questions.
The problem with the raised hands approach
Sometimes, when a student is unsure whether their answer if correct, they may be reluctant to raise their hands for fear of getting the answer wrong. This can hold some students back in terms of participating and having a go. For others, speaking in front of the whole class may cause anxiety. In every class there are particular students who are keen to answer every question and raise their hands, which is great, but this can cause other pupils in the class to ‘leave it to them’ and not even attempt to have a go at putting their hands up to make a contribution.
So, what’s the solution?
As an alternative to traditional classroom raised hands, I love to use answer cards to get my whole class involved. I give each students a set of four multiple choice answer cards labelled A, B, C or D. They are quick and simple to make from pieces of colored card.
How does it work?
I ask a question and give four possible answers labelled from A through to D, one correct and three incorrect. The students work out the answer and pick the correct answer card. They can either move it closer to them, away from the other cards, or hold their chosen answer up. This way, every student in the classroom is actively involved in working out the answer. It relieves the ‘everyone is looking at me’ pressure on the more reserved students and gives them a chance to provide an answer in a less stressful way. It is also great for those kinaesthetic learners, as they can physically manipulate the answer cards in front of them, moving the answers they have discounted away from them. When the students have chosen their answer, you can do a quick assessment of the understanding of every individual.
It is great to use in paired talk and get students to consider the different options. Students can also use the cards as props in discussion. For example, which of the following four items do you consider to be the most important for…? Students can order the cards according to their own thoughts and opinions.
Still a place for raised hands
Of course, it is still important to ask questions without giving students answer options and open questions are extremely important in every classroom. For these types of questioning, raised hands still plays an important role. But this is great raised hands alternative in which every student in the class is involved and responding to questions!