Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Hand signals & gestures for behavior management-stay in the target language!

I HAVE GIVEN MANY PRESENTATIONS on how I keep my behavior and classroom management in my elementary Spanish classes in Spanish, and one thing I share each time is how I use hand signals and gestures to provide redirects and reminders. Borrowed from ASL, Responsive Classroom, and other sources, the following simple signals are, in fact, quite powerful and allow you to stay in the target language once you've established them as part of your routine management style. Also check out my list of 13 verbal redirects in Spanish here!

hand signals for classroom management in the elementary Spanish classroom

*¡ATENCIÓN!: Most likely you use this one, too. Eyes in my direction is one of the most important things I need my kiddos to do in order to see all the visually supports I give them (see my post on a 90% partnership for more on this). I often accompany this gesture with the verbal redirect '¡Atención!, but not always. NOTE: You will notice I am careful to say ‘in my direction’; I might direct the gesture to the Apple TV, a poster, the actual visual etc. Being careful not to ask students to look you directly in the eyes is important to be inclusive of neurodivergent students for whom this is difficult. 

hand signals for behavior management in the elementary Spanish classroom

*¡SIÉNTATE BIEN!: This is the ASL sign for sitting and comes in extremely handy for those squirmy, wriggly kids who are all over the floor, up on their knees, or lying about instead of sitting on their bum.

hand signals for classroom managment elementary spanish class

*MOMENTICO: I was inspired to use this gesture by watching a previous principal who used it frequently at staff meetings. I use it all the time; when a kiddo has a raised hand but I can't call on him/her right at that moment; when a kiddo needs something but I can't grab it right at that moment; any time I need my kiddos to wait for a minute for my attention, help, etc. It is way more powerful than I could've imagined! Kids feel ACKNOWLEDGED, that I see them and will get to them as soon as I can, which also cuts down on the "Señora, Señora, Señora....". I do typically say 'momentico' when I make the gesture; many of my students have picked it up and use it, too! NOTE: a key component of this is that you do indeed get back to the kid you've said 'momentico' to- this builds trust and shows your students you will follow through.

hand signals for classroom management in elementary Spanish class

*SNAPPING YOUR FINGERS: Need to get a kiddo's attention without saying anything? I find snapping my fingers often does the trick, and I can then give a second hand signal to redirect the behavior that is heading off course or a verbal redirect if necessary.

I hope these help out and/or give you inspiration! Have some gestures of your own? Share in the comments below!

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