Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hands up, baby, hands up...

(Apologies for quoting terrible lyrics from way back... the blog goes tabloid!)

So, someone somewhere in "the government" has issued advice, apparently, telling teachers not to ask pupils to put their hands up to offer answers to questions, because (apparently #2) some pupils get left behind if you do this.


Well, some initial thoughts.

First up: are we talking UK here, or Scotland? I can't be too bothered to try and find out, but given that I heard about this on BBC 5Live, methinks this is probably south of Gretna. In which case we can just ignore it.

But honestly, chances are, this is yet another media misrepresentation of a small part of advice to teachers regarding the importance of varying their techniques for Q & A sessions (or "direct interactive teaching", if you're writing your cv).

Getting pupils to put their hands up does have its place. For one thing, you get a quick idea of how much pupils are understanding (or how many of your class are still awake - all useful stuff). If you only ever have a couple of hands up, then you need to vary this, 'cos something is clearly not right.

For example, I sometimes use a calculator to throw out a random number, then ask the next question to the pupil corresponding to this number in my register. Keeps the class on their toes, I can tell you! And if this sounds cruel, well... (a) yes, and your point is? (b) who says I'm honest? I know my classes well enough that if I think wee Johnny can't answer I'll either ask a different question or just say another number has come up. (The key thing here is to generate the number away from the gaze of the class, and ask the question AFTER you've seen who's in the firing line.)

There are loads of other ways of assessing pupil understanding, but asking for hands up is hardly a criminal offence.

It really gets my goat when certain people (maybe the media, maybe even teachers) seize on one aspect of teaching and think this is or isn't the definitive answer to all our prayers.

Let's be sensible.



beans said...

I was talking to an English teacher and they seem to use a 'card system' to monitor how well the topic has been understood!

I think the students have three cards- red, amber and green. The teacher walks in and asks them 'how confident are you with methaphors?' If they're confident they put the green card up, if they've never heard of them the red ones and if they're fifty fifty the amber one. This way the teacher can initally see what the class knows. She does this at the end again and hopes for all green cards!

Whether the card thing is effective, I don't know but I like your way of making sure they're awake. :D

maths teacher said...

Yeah, this is the "traffic light system", which I believe quite a few people use. Or others do a simple "thumbs up" (yep, got it), "thumbs down" (heck no) and "thumb across" (I'll get back to you).

I think this can all get gimmicky, but it's good for teachers to be reminded of a key point in the business: just because you said it, don't mean they got it!