Beyond the Raised Hand: 10 More Engaging Ways to Respond

Activate your students' need for critical thinking and kinesthetic movement by trying some of these 10 more engaging ways to respond. Have them try talking to a partner, using sign language, or giving a thumbs up!

Teacher talks.

Teacher asks a question.

Students raise their hands.

Teacher calls on students until the correct answer is given.

One hundred years ago, students stood up when they gave their answers. That is about the only way this formula has changed. Here are some more engaging ways to respond:

  1. Call on students randomly. Popsicle sticks with the students’ names written on them work well for this. You could also number your students and use an online random number generator to select students.
  2. Have students share the answer with the student next to them. This works especially well for open-ended questions.
  3. Have students answer with individual whiteboards, and then hold the boards up for you to check. This is great for math problems or short answers. You could also do this with iPads, if you are blessed enough to have them.
  4. Have  students answer “yes” or “no” using sign language.
  5. Have students answer multiple choice questions with sign language letters: a, b, c, and d. Be sure the question and the possible answers are displayed on the board. This would be great with PowerPoint.
  6. Have students answer mental math problems that have single digit answers with their fingers. For example, “Start with the number 8. Multiply that number by itself. Add the digits. Subtract 3.”
  7. Have students agree or disagree with a statement using thumbs up or thumbs down. You can use this to gauge how students are feeling about something. For example, “That last math problem was really challenging.” Or you can use it to test knowledge: “Water is a poor conductor of electricity.”
  8. After you have called on a student, ask other students if they agree or disagree and why.
  9. Make a game out of it. There are any number of game show style games that use PowerPoint or SMARTBoards. BINGO is fun too. It can be as easy as allowing a child who gets a correct answer to try and make a basket with a soft Nerf ball.
  10. Add a little novelty: Give students little flags to wave instead of raising their hands. Students must spell their answers (for one-word answers, of course). Student must say the answer in a high squeaky voice. Students must pat their head and rub their tummies while giving the answer. Students must clap the syllables as they give the answer, etc.

Whether you apply these ideas or not, make sure you frequently remind your students that it is more important to risk giving the wrong answer than not to give any answer at all. Talk about how we learn from mistakes. Here are some good lines to try:

Thanks for making that mistake; you are helping us all to learn.

Not quite, but you got us all closer to the correct answer!

One step closer; keep thinking!

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