Posted by Peter on 4th June 2007

Hands up in class!

Do you know how your children react in the classroom? Are they keen to put their hands up, or are they quiet and reserved, perhaps avoiding eye contact? This subject came to mind as the ‘hands up in the classroom’ debate was highlighted by Alan Johnson the Education Secretary, this week.

I’m sure most people remember their school days when the only way permitted to speak was via a hands up sign, and then only when selected by the teacher. Now this is coming into question and I can see why.

I have seen teachers deliberately selecting certain children who could almost guarantee giving them a correct or incorrect answer, depending entirely where they wanted the discussion to lead. Unfair perhaps on the very keen, but inevitably wrong child – the rest of the class also knew that a wrong answer, and sometimes funny answer, could well be on the way. But the report suggests it is not so much the children who ‘get it wrong’ who suffer as much as those who do not put their hands up at all, those ‘invisible children’ who live in a comfort zone and do not want to be selected to answer. Often they are anxious in case they give a wrong answer, which could be embarrassing, sometimes they have just opted out. “Invisible children”, the report finds, are quiet and undemanding and do not mind if they receive attention or not. The research suggests helping these pupils by avoiding asking for children to put their hands up, instead choosing who should answer. These pupils, the report adds, would also benefit from having 30 seconds to consider their answer.“We need to make sure that no-one is left behind at any point”

Alan Johnson Education Secretary Maths as a subject probably incurs more hands up than most subjects, but these days there are many ways round this so that more children can answer: 0 to 9 cards where the whole class participate with each child holding up the answer is a great way forward and in some schools they are experimenting with hand held devices which the children all input their answers which can then be recorded. There is also the whole ‘open and closed questions’ debate which will no doubt be the subject of another blog one day. It might be worthwhile quietly finding out if your child is one of these ‘invisible children’ at your next parent evening, but not to worry too much if they are. I know many who have gone on to gain University degrees! It really depends on whether they are just withdrawing from answering or from learning in the classroom as a whole.

More info at: distributedresearch.net

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