Establishing a routine whereby your pupils put up their hands every time is pro-thinking, pro-participation and pro-community. It also places in you in control.
“Let them call out, I say. It gives the lesson a bit of dynamism and pace. It’s fun. It shows them you’re cool, not a fuddy-duddy.”
The person I‘m quoting is me, back when I started teaching. However, my view then had a slight flaw: it was completely and totally wrong. Calling out is not dynamic, it’s chaotic; it’s not fun, it’s stressful; it doesn’t show you’re cool, it shows you’re not in control. These are reasons enough to put a stop to it, but there are other reasons too. Calling out is anti-thinking, anti-participation and anti-community.
Calling out is anti-thinking
Asking a question is a great way to get your students to think. But if you tolerate calling out, then your question becomes nothing more than the starter signal for a race – the race being the first to get their voice heard. But thinking needs time … and thinkers need to be free of the pressure of time so they can get on with the job of thinking.
Calling out is anti-participation
Calling out creates a free-for-all in which only a few participate. And it’s always the same few, too. But why should those with the loudest voice be the ones who are heard? What about your quieter
students or those who lack a bit of confidence? Ignore them and they’ll simply switch off, either through boredom or resentment – or both.
Calling out is anti-community
Classroom communities are built on respect, politeness and inclusivity. Calling out is the opposite of those things. It’s the verbal equivalent of pushing into the front of the queue. By tolerating it, you’re promoting selfishness and undermining togetherness.
So, if calling out is a problem (and it is!), what’s the solution? Is there an effective alternative strategy?
Yes there is! And it’s a super-duper one too.
It’s called (…wait for it …) ‘put up your hand’.
Now, of course, this strategy’s not new. It’s been around as long as there’s been students. But, unfortunately, many teachers struggle to get it right. In fact, often it’s nothing more than a variation of calling out, with the teacher accepting the first student to put up their hand instead of the first to blurt out an answer.
But there is a hands-up procedure that works and here’s a proven way to teach it. It uses the ‘do as I
do method’ and it comes in three stages.
1. You model
Sit yourself down at a student’s desk and show how NOT to do it. It’s fun to have a student acting as the teacher, perhaps reading out a question or two that you’ve prepared. Exaggeration is the key, so include all of the following: hand waving, arched back, bottom out of seat, grimaced face and finger clicking. Throw in a “Me, Miss, pick me!” for good measure. You’ll almost certainly get lots of laughter at this point, much of it the laughter of self-recognition. Include sighs of disappointment when you’re not chosen to answer, together with an “it’s not fair” and “I never get picked”.
Next, model the behaviour you want to see. During this phase, it’s very helpful if you (as the student) externalise your thinking. It might go something like this.
Hmmm. That’s a good question that the teacher has just asked. Let me think about it.