Thursday, December 21, 2017

Immediate Feedback with Clap, Wave, & Hands Up gestures

Say goodbye to dull methods to check answers on formative or summative multiple choice questions, and so hello to a fun, interactive method of whole class participation. In the Clap, Wave, Hands Up response gesture method, everyone participates at the same time, giving the teacher immediate feedback on the class' pre-knowledge of a subject or their comprehension of a text or cultural lesson.

The Clap, Wave, Hands Up gesture response method was one of those on the spot inspirations that affirms that some of my best teaching ideas are made in the moment. 

I have a powerpoint with 11 multiple questions about Navidad in Spain that I wanted to add to my lessons on this last week of school before Christmas vacation. Each of the questions has three answers from which students can choose their answer. My original plan was to project the powerpoint and for students to work with a partner to write the answers. In a class earlier in the day, I had students pair up with one mini-marker board between them, number 1-11 on the mini white board, and write the answers as I projected the questions on the PowerPoint. However, in the last class of the day, our Story Listening activity and subsequent write and discuss took longer than in the morning class. We finished the Story Listening with only 5 minutes remaining in class. It was obvious that there wasn't time to get the white boards out and follow my original plans. That's when a thought flashed through my mind to forgo writing the answers and to have everyone participate, at the same time, with motions.

I instructed students to do the following actions to indicate which answer they thought was correct, and to continue the action until I said the answer:

- If they thought A was the correct answer, they clapped their hands
- If they thought B was the correct answer, they put their palms up in front of them and moved them to the right and to the left (imagine the dance moves with Shirley Temple and the song, The Good Ship Lollipop; at least they are the moves I've seen as others have sung that song)
- If they thought C was the answer, they lifted their hands up and held them out to the side (it looks like the motion you make when you tell someone, "I don't know".)

After I read the question, the students silently read the 3 multiple answers and they indicated the answer they chose with one of the above motions/gestures. It turned out to be the best way, and most fun and interactive, to visually see what the students' answers were. Judging by the students' reactions and participation in the motions, they enjoyed this way also.

We zipped through the 11 questions in no time! 

This can also be used as a Brain Break with questions on anything that will interest the students. It gets them moving and smiling!

This method saves time, is interactive, is fun, and immediately visually shows the teacher which students have the correct answer. (No more boring, "if you think it is A, raise your hand; if you think it is B, raise your hand, etc - Zzz Zzz.) It can be used to introduce information about a country, a cultural topic, and to review chapters of a novel.  

I may have to do the activity again to videotape it, to give you a clear picture of my explanation, plus the students they looked so cute doing the motions. Several times I saw all three motions showing that many students were not being swayed by the motions of their classmates. The questions were about celebrating Christmas in Spain, some obvious and some that they have never learned about in previous levels.  

To mix it up, I'll change the motions after doing this several times. Keeping it novel is always a good idea!


  1. Cynthia, can you describe the benefits of "write and discuss"? I see that Tina Hargaden and Mike Peto and you all do this. Tina and Mike write and students watch, though Tina asks the students who can't pay close attention to copy what she writes. I believe you said you have everyone write in a notebook while you write. I'd like to know why you decided to do it that way and also if you find that your stories need to be quite short in order to have time for the write and discuss part? Anything you can tell me about the how, when, and why of "write and discuss" your way would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Julie,
      My explanation will give you information on what I have found works for me and with my students. In the past, I almost always gave the students a typed copy of the class story the following day. At the end of the school day, I typed the story and copied it for my students and we read it the following day. However, as you mentioned about Tina asking those students that can't play close attention to write with her, I have found that students have to pay more attention if they are actually writing what we have talked about. After we write it we can read it together or with a partner, which gives them more input, plus they are more engaged (obviously if they have to copy/write with me).
      I also like that they are reviewing the story immediately after we created the story in the class and not the next day, plus...I can still have them read what they wrote the again the next day or I can project the sentences that I wrote during the "write and discuss" to make sure everything is correct. It takes longer, but I like that they are writing while they are hearing and seeing the information. There are a lot of things happening at the same time.
      The length of a story can be a problem, but interestingly enough, I was talking about this yesterday with my colleague, Krista. She said after a story she tells them they will write a 10-sentence summary together. Students decide what is the meat of the story and together they write the story with me with the limit of 10 sentences. Knowing the students are going to summarize with a limit of 10 sentences helps keep the teacher on track also.
      But, I want to be transparent and say that just because they are writing doesn't mean ALL are benefitting from it. I say that because last semester I had a student that need a lot of redirection. One time he left his composition book in class, the one in which he wrote/copied the story from class, and it was. disaster. First, it was super sloppy handwriting, the grammar and words were not correct, and punctuation was non-existent. That's life in the real teaching world, right?
      Overall, it has been my experience that the "write and discuss", (a new term which makes it easy to refer to, but language teachers have been doing that years before it was coined "write and discuss") IS beneficial and I include it along with a lot of other CI activities.
      I hope that was helpful,

      Cynthia Hitz

  2. Thank you for your quick response, Cynthia. It is helpful to know the details of your process as I figure out mine.