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Hands up or no hands up?

There was an article in the Sunday Times the other day about a teacher who is having success with classes by not allowing them to put up their hands in oral lessons. An OFSTED discussion paper on language teaching also suggested this approach. I have mentioned this issue before on the blog, I think. The reasoning? Allowing kids to put their hands up to answer questions is good for the bright and keen ones, but has a deleterious effect on weaker, more timid pupils, who sit back and stop thinking. There seems to be evidence that opting for a no hands-up approach (maybe calling out names or using mini whiteboards) benefits the whole range of ability more, even if the brightest pupils are slightly frustrated in not being able to show off.

This makes some sense to me. I often do questioning work where pupils write down answers and in doing this I know that all pupils are engaging their brains and learning.

The only downsides I see are that the bright ones may be a little held back, and, more importantly, it may make weaker pupils more anxious. We are told that to learn best students need to feel comfortable and relaxed. Well, there is comfortable, and there's inactive, so I can see that it may be worth adding an element of tension to the lesson.

Next week I shall try a whole week of five lessons with my Year 8 class with no hands-up. I'll report my findings.

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