Using Hand Signals in the Classroom


Have you ever been sitting with a small group of students who emerged in some deep learning or have been working with a student one on one who is finally having that light bulb moment only to be interrupted by a student who merely needs to sharpen a pencil?!?!? 🤦‍♀️ Well, that has happened to me many times, and it’s a bit frustrating. Keep reading on how using hand signals in the classroom can improve the behavior and classroom mood.

My first year of teaching was full of those moments. So many times, I would be immersed in teaching a small group, and I’d have that one student who needed a tissue, a pencil sharpened, a question about what time lunch is….again, or an “every 5-minute” bathroom goer come stand next to me to ask one of these questions. If your students are like mine, once one comes up, they all have the green light to come to ask me a question.  I knew in the first year of teaching that something had to change. I started using these hand signals in the classroom, and they made a world of difference.

Using hand signals in the classroom for classroom management quickly became one of my staples years ago. I spend the first weeks of school every year immersing my students in classroom management procedures as well as modeling the proper and improper way of doing things. This procedure is the one thing the students are so eager to learn because it is different. The kiddos quickly catch on every year.

Using Hand Signals in the Classroom

For my classroom, I use hand signals as follows:

  • Hand Signal Number 1: Bathroom 
    • If a student needs to go to the bathroom, all they have to do is hold the number 1 finger in the air. I tell my kiddos they can’t just assume that once the hand signal for the bathroom goes in the air, they can quickly dart off to the bathroom. We have to make eye contact, and they are to wait for me to give a cue for yes or no. I figured number 1 would be better than a number 2 finger… 😂💩😷
  • Using Hand Signals in the Classroom Number 2: Tissue
    • Tissue season is in full swing 180 days out of the school year! It is inevitable that some sweet baby or babies are going to need to blow their noses continuously during class. You would think that tissue season would only be during the cold season…nope! I don’t want a sweet baby interrupting brainpower time when they only need a tissue. 🤧
  • Hand Signal Number 3: Sharpen Pencil
    • You know where I am going with this one, right?!?!?! Pencil sharpening happens every 1.6 seconds in my room. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration 🤭, but it seems to happen pretty often. Again, I merely make eye contact and nod my head either yes or no. This procedure helps to cut down on those sneaky ones who want to make a 5-minute detour across the other side of the room just to hit their friend on the head or pass a “check yes or no” note.
  • Hand Signal Number 4: Water 
    • It is inevitable that every year I have several sweet kiddos who love to visit in the hallway. Hallway visiting is the best especially during work time or instruction time. There is something about chillin’ with a friend by the water fountain for 5 minutes every half hour. Do you know what that means? If I have 20 students, and 5 of them want to get water every 30 minutes…..that is a whole lot of small group or one on one interruption time. Students raise their hand, and I take a minute to think, “Is this the 5th or 6th time Johnny has left the room to visit with a friend…I mean get water?” See my point?!?!?!
  • Hand Signal Number 5: Ask a Question
    • This one is a little bit harder to decipher from afar. I haven’t quite mastered the skill of mind-reading, but I do quickly learn mannerisms; therefore, I typically have a good idea of why a student is raising his or her hand. Most of the time, it is a genuine question for help. However, sometimes it is to ask me what time we are going to recess or lunch. I don’t know about you, but typically those scheduled times are often around the same time each day.

As you can see, hand signals in the classroom as part of my classroom management procedures are a significant plus in my room and have been each year! My kiddos move on in the years that follow with these signals engrained in the brain. I get comments from upper-grade new teachers who have no idea why Johnny is raising his hand with a number 2 until she or he quickly learns about the hand signals I use in my classroom.

This procedure is a simple, yet highly effective, procedure that will always be a staple in my class. If you are interested in purchasing these hand signals, please click on any picture above, and the link will take you to this product in my TPT store. This set includes the colors you see above as well as posters with a black background with bright colors. If you have any questions or would like a different color scheme, please contact me for a custom product. You might also like my back-to-school tips blog post! My email is


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