Learning Lab Resources: Shhhh! Classroom Management with Sign Language (FREE POSTERS)
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Shhhh! Classroom Management with Sign Language (FREE POSTERS)

How many times are you at the front of the room teaching and ask the students a question and you're looking for an answer.  You call on the first student who raises their hand and he asks to go to the bathroom.  The next student has a comment to add about something that happened to a family member.  Another student gets up to sharper her pencil.  Finally, you pick that student who ALWAYS has the answer just so you can move on.

Problem solved.

I started using this sign language method when I was in my first year teaching.  I soon realized I needed a strategy to identify what students wanted when they raised their hands.  Searching the Internet, I found this idea, which I modified a bit to fit the needs in my classroom.

I created these posters and placed them in the front of my classroom for the students to see.  I probably should have also put them in the back so I could learn them because for the first few days, I found myself referring to them too.  Each hand sign refers to a letter of the alphabet - a for answer, b for bathroom, c for comment, d for drink, q for question, and p for pencil.  This is how it works.

Let's refer back to that scenario I mentioned earlier.  I ask a question and expect an answer.  Students raise their hands.  I can scan through their hands and I can see those who are raising their hand to add a comment, a few students who have the answer, two students with questions, and one that needs to use the bathroom.  I can easily skip some of those students for a minute and focus on the ones with the questions, since I want to make sure they understand what is being asked.  Now, the questions are answered and I look over to the boy with his hand up to use the bathroom.  I can shake my head yes or no (since he knows that I know what he wants) or hold up my finger to let him know he can go in a minute.  No time wasted and I can still move on to students with answers without anyone even saying a word.  I find a student who provides the correct answer.  If I want, I can choose a student or two to add a comment, or I could just let them know that I'll save comments for the end of the lesson.

Easy, right?  This really worked well with me since in my first year I had problems with pacing and lessons taking longer than expected.  During a future observation, my principal commented on how much that strategy really worked for me and she was so impressed by how nicely it was implemented.

Are you interested in trying this in your class?  You're in luck!  I'm offering my Shhh... Classroom Management with Sign Language posters for FREE in my TpT store!


  1. Amazing! This will be super-helpful! Thanks a million for sharing! ;D

  2. Oh I love this! I can't wait to use this with my class! I'm looping up with my third grade class. I think this would help my whole class out a lot!

  3. I have used some sign language in my class for several years but love the idea of implementing more. Thank you for sharing. I'd like to know if it would be possible for you to make a different sign for me (We call it a Restroom instead of a Bathroom and thus use the Letter R instead). Please let me know at shartford@bolesonline.com. Thank you for sharing your ideas. :) Sami Hartford

  4. I love your signs, but some of them are not the same as ASL (drink and bathroom). What is your reasoning? Jenn

    1. Hi Jenn. I'm not quite sure what you mean by they are not the same as ASL. The hand signs are only supposed the represent the first letter of each word. I purposely did it this way so that students didn't have to make the motions continually while the teacher is talking. I just looked up to make sure the images were correct and I didn't see anything different. If the sign for the d or b is incorrect I'd love if you could point me in the direction of the correct version.

  5. Hi Melissa,
    I too would like to know if I could have a T for tissue made to match. I love these and can't wait to use them. I have been using D for drink and T for toilet but would love to use more. Also my students have always asked why I didn't have a symbol for tissue or pencil sharpening. So with your help I'm almost there. Thanks again!