The Purpose of Hand Raising

Here we goooooo!!!! I have just started the book, Hacking Questions: 11 Answers That Create a Culture of Inquiry in Your Classroom, by Connie Hamilton. Below is my first    ah-ha moment.

Raise your hand if you have ever asked a question to the class and…

  • The one hand (that always goes up) speeds through the air like Hermoine Granger’s in potions class…
  • Several hands go up and now you must choose…
  • No one’s hand goes up

Yeah, me too. And if you say you have never done this…


We have all done this. And, before reading the first chapter, I would still be doing this. It is what we did in school; it is how we have seen others questions students; it is how it has always been done. But just because that is our norm, should it be the norm for questioning students???

Let’s go back to the three hand-raising options. Here is what I have been thinking about and how this might roll in my class:

  • The one hand (that always goes up) speeds through the air like Hermoine Granger’s in potions class… So now everyone else can breathe a sigh of relief as she answers. Or if I don’t let her answer, she gets all impatient and sighs vehemently.
  • Several hands go up and now you must choose… I spend 4-5 precious minutes going through multiple responses and get some answers I wasn’t ready for and now I have to think on the fly about a positive way to respond.
  • No one’s hand goes up…I answer for the class and basically take the learning away from them.

Here is what hit me: “Disengagement is the enemy of learning. We unintentionally create the conditions for disengagement when we allow students to keep their hands down”    (p. 21).

Say whaaaatttt??? THIS was not my intent when I ‘cold-called‘ (the term in the book for hand-raising) on students. These are my questions I want to reflect on for this week as I move forward with this slap-me-in-the-face realization. I invite you to think about them as well:

  • What is my purpose for using ‘cold-calling’ in class?
  • What is the purpose of questioning in my class? What do I want to get out of my questions?
  • How am I asking students these questions? Are there ways in which I can ask questions and get more feedback and engagement?

I am hoping to get into some elementary math classes this week and reflect on these as I teach. I encourage you to comment below or email me your reflections. Let’s learn together!



The Purpose of Hand Raising

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