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“NO HANDS UP” HELPING ENGAGE ALL LEARNERS IN A GEOGRAPHY LESSON

By Fanny Nombulelo Agnes Malikebu

Introduction

The most frequent methods used by the teacher in Geography are exposition, worksheets, note-giving, individual exercises and extended reading. Use of a range of strategies encourage lots of different responses from lots of different learners. The ‘No Hands Up’ approach for instance, can make classrooms more engaging and is also useful in larger classes of students with different learning styles. This is an inclusive approach to teaching and useful for learning needs diagnosis as students are given equal platform to express their grasp of subject content in a lesson. Employing the ‘No Hands Up’ technique is a beginning move toward a highly engaged classroom. Randomly calling on students holds everyone accountable for active participation, gives the teacher a broader picture of student thinking, and increases learning.

Historically, teachers have asked questions to check what has been learnt and understood, to help them gauge whether to further review previous learning, increase or decrease the challenge, and assess whether students are ready to move forward and learn new information (factual checks – ie ‘Closed’ questions). This can be structured as a simple ‘teacher versus the class’ approach (Bat and Ball), where the teacher asks a question and accepts an answer from a volunteer, or selects/conscripts a specific student to answer. These approaches are implicit in any pedagogy, but teachers need a range of ‘Open’ questioning strategies to address different learning needs and situations. Teachers must also pitch questions effectively to raise the thinking challenge, target specific students or groups within the class.

As a teacher of Geography I used a No hands up approach to discussion and questioning in a class lesson on the topic of the “Atmosphere”. My role during the lesson was to make sure that the students understood the concept being taught and were able to apply the knowledge and skills acquired.

No Hands Up strategy refers to a teaching strategy where you encourage students to become more active in their own learning.

Studies shows that by developing No Hands Up strategies in the classroom it has enabled all students to be constantly focusing on the tasks in hand. Students are unable to switch off even for a moment as they are likely to be asked a question at any point in the lesson linked to the content, subject or conversation that has taken place. This allows students to be deeper thinkers as they are constantly reflecting on solutions to problems that may arise throughout the lesson. In this respective, I used the No Hands Up strategy because my Geography class has a capacity of 87 students and they just came from the holidays. I engaged them in a lesson through this approach to ensure that they were taken back to the learning mood and to ensure they paid attention to the lesson as it could be easy for them to be distracted in a larger classroom. Inclusive is that the No Hands Up strategy is a useful diagnosis tool for students with learning difficulties.

Problem statement

The research shows that children who perhaps need challenge, questioning and help do not put their hands up because they do not know the answer whereas those children who do know can dominate the learning experience. This is exactly my experience of this classroom, although l have been with them for only two sessions but in both of the sessions, it has been those same students who sits in the front row of the classroom raising up their hands and responding each time I pose a question. By calling on only those students who raise their hands, teachers allow students to decide them-selves whether or not they will participate in the lesson.

Based on the nature of the classroom, complexity of the topic under discussion, and being the second week of term from the festive holidays the deployment of the No Hands Up strategy has ensured equal opportunities and participation to the lesson objectives which aimed at understanding what the atmosphere is; composition of the gases in the atmosphere; layers of the atmosphere and interpreting data on the main gases in the atmosphere.

“When developing a lesson, think about how you are going to plan for learning rather than how you plan to teach”(Mark Harris, 2007).

These may include; the elements of a lesson structure, lesson start, exploring the taught topic in Geography, building up on prior knowledge and experiences for students, learning activities, plenary, and concluding the lesson. Similarly, I ensured that l structured the lesson in such a way that it was easy to implement the “No Hands Up” Strategy. I had these two diagrams readily available in front on the walls and I walked around the classroom randomly pointing at students to answer the following question;

(i) What are the major gas components of the Earth’s atmosphere?

COMPOSITION OF GASES IN THE ATMOSPHERE                

There are two main approaches used to plan geography lessons. These are Objective-led where the teacher shares the learning objectives with students and structures the lesson to lead them to acquire that learning and Enquiry-led where the students are posed a key question that they seek to answer through the lesson.

Findings

When a teacher uses a No Hands Up strategy the students in the classroom adapt and they ensure that each and every time they come to the classroom prepared and that they pay attention to each and every aspect of the lesson. The other thing which I did note is that, each and every one of them had their Geography books and manuals open in readiness to learn and they were keenly following up the lesson.

Almost all of the learners I pointed at to answer the questions attempted to except for one student who was not confident enough to answer this question;

Why is it that although Nitrogen exists in excess amount (78%) in the atmosphere, it is not as useful as Oxygen which is 21% to human beings?

Conclusion

An effective teaching approach will engage students in the learning process and help them to think geographically.

At the very end of the lesson I asked students questions based on the day’s lesson objectives which were namely; (i). Explain the term Atmosphere; (ii). Explain the composition of gases in the atmosphere (iii). Describe the layers of the atmosphere; and (iv). Explain the importance of the atmosphere.

In this regard the No Hands Up strategy ensured that I maintained the flow of the learning within the lesson; engaged students with the learning; assessed what had been learned, and checked that what had been learnt was understood and applied; tested student memory and comprehension; to initiate individual and collaborative thinking in response to new information; seek the views and opinions of pupils; provide an opportunity for pupils to share their opinions/views, seeking responses from their peers; encourage creative thought and imaginative or innovative thinking; foster speculation, hypothesis and idea/opinion forming; created a sense of shared learning and avoid the feel of a ‘lecture’; challenged the level of thinking and possibly marked a change to a higher order of thinking; and modelled higher order thinking using examples and building on the responses of students.

You can learn more about this strategy from the various Professional Development courses on the Teach2030 website.

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