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How to avoid unnecessary questions in the classroom

We’ve all been there. . .the off topic question that seems to open the door to every other off-topic question. But what’s a teacher to do? We must answer questions . . .right?!?!? How can students communicate with you otherwise??? The answer is nonverbal communication. It allows you to answer off-topic questions without missing a beat. Here’s my tips and ideas for ramping up your classroom management with nonverbal communication.

unnecessary questions can be such a distraction during a lesson or work time - use these tips and ideas to avoid unnecessary questions

why use nonverbal communication?

Students have questions! But not all questions are related to the lesson or topic at hand. After all . . . when you gotta go, you gotta go! But you don’t have to allow those off-topic questions to disrupt the classroom.

Nonverbal communication can include hand signals, body language or visual cues. Starting out the year with clear expectations for nonverbal communication will ensure your students feel valued and heard, but also not interrupt their important learning with questions like, “Can I go to the bathroom?” or “What do I do next?”.

What are hand signals?

Nonverbal communication using hand gestures is a great way to avoid off topic questions in the classroom

Nonverbal hand signals are ways for students to communicate their needs to you with specified hang gestures. Without saying anything they can ask variety of questions using the hand gesture.

It’s important to teach these signals early on in the year and give your students clear expectations on how you want them to be used. I would start on day one, introducing students to our hand signals and explaining how we would use them. I would hang posters with each of the hand signals in the classroom so we would all have a visual reminder. Then throughout the first weeks we would review the hand gestures.

hand signals for questions

Using hand signals for common classroom issues, instead of off-topic questions was an absolute game-changer in my classroom! You will find your students thinking more about their questions and the timing instead of shouting out impulsively.

Use nonverbal communication like hand signals for a calmer and more independent classroom.

I can’t tell you how many times before I introduced the concept of nonverbal hand signals I would be working with a small group and a student working at their desk needed something.

Once I started using hand signals, I could quickly glance over, identify the student’s need based on the hand signal, and then nod yes or shake my head no.

When my students were accustomed to using the hand signals, my small group students weren’t distracted with constant interruptions and the student who had a question had their needs easily met. It was a win-win for sure!

Visual clues for instructions

nonverbal communication through visual directions allows students to complete assignments and work independently

One of the most common questions teachers face is “what do I do now?” Whether it is multiple steps on a project, or a series of activities to do, students can benefit from a reminder. Visual direction cards to the rescue.

Younger students can struggle with multi-step directions. Whether it is a shorter attention span, or something else, students often need reminders completing more than just a couple steps. We can help them improve this and learn to work independently at the same time by using visual directions.

Visual direction cards are cards you can post in your room that lay out multiple steps students should complete. This might include what to do in the morning when students arrive, or it might include an activity that requires multiple steps.

Use visual examples along with numbers to give specific instructions for students to complete independently.  This nonverbal communication can be a great addition to your classroom management.

When students know what to do, you can drastically cut down on the number of questions. This includes the dreaded “What am I supposed to be doing?” or “What do I do next?”.

It’s important be consistent using these visual directions. They are great to help teach classroom procedures at the beginning of the year. When students are unsure what to do, just remind them to check the steps on the board. The more they use them, the more independent they will become.

It’s All About Independence

Even though kindergarten and first graders are young, they are perfectly capable of working independently. With the right teacher attitude and some patience, your students will be able to complete many tasks and even work in their centers independently.

When setting up centers at the beginning of the school year, take the extra time to go over the rules and procedures for the activities they will be completing. Use the visual instructions to help them work independently when it’s their turn.

I liked to print the visual instructions out in half size for centers. This allowed me to add visual directions to each center activity. You can tape the instructions directly onto the plastic bag or bin with the supplies, or hang on the wall in the designated center space. This visual reminder will help students stay on task during centers.

The end of Unnecessary questions with nonverbal communication

Using nonverbal signals, visual aids, and routines will give you a more focused and independent classroom. I remember being shocked at how quickly my students grasped and enjoyed using nonverbal hand signals. Give it a try this year, you will be happy you did!

You can find the hand signal posters and the visual directions in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Use hand signals as a way to communicate without questions in the classroom
visual direction cards are a great way to help students complete multiple steps independently

If you love these classroom posters, be sure to check out my editable classroom decor sets that can help you set routines, display a visual schedule and remind your students of the nonverbal communication you are teaching.

Save these nonverbal communication ideas!

Pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back anytime for successful ways your students can use nonverbal communication in the classroom.

Avoid unnecessary and off topic questions in the classroom by using nonverbal communication.  These practical tips and ideas will help your class time stay on topic.  They will also teach students to work independently too.


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