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Helpless Handraisers

Cindy sits at her table during Power Hour. She raises her hand to ask a question about her math homework. You guide her and walk away. She raises her hand again and asks about another math question. You sit down and talk her through it. You start to walk away to help another member and Cindy yells, "Mr. Teacher, I need your help with another math question." You return to help her.

Cindy is preoccupying a lot of your time. She requires a lot of attention and guidance. She raises her hand or asks for your help every couple of minutes. Unfortunately, with 25 other members in your area, you cannot provide the attention she craves without alienating other members.

As I mentioned in a prior blog post, Fred Jones' Tools for Teaching has gotten me though my 3 years of teaching high school and my 5 years with the Club. His approach to managing a classroom crosses over to after-school care in so many ways. Today, we will look at Helpless Handraisers and how they can be managed in your areas!

Some kids are clingers. They demand a ton of attention. When they hit the 1st or 2nd grade, however, they start to become more independent for fear of ridicule. After all, you don't want to look like a baby in front of all of your friends. So what do immature kiddos do in order to monopolize teacher time without physically clinging?

Enter the Helpless Handraiser! These are NOT members who occasionally need help or clarification. These are members who will demand your attention by constantly asking for help or asking questions you have already answered.

Fred Jones talks about how important it is to create independent learners. He claims that if we coddle members, there are some very real consequences.

  1. Helpless Handraisers monopolize teacher time

  2. Helpless Handraisers are disapproved by peers

  3. Helpless Handraisers get sympathetic reactions from staff

  4. Helpless Handraisers get unfair treatment

  5. If we coddle too much, we can create a learning disability called Learned Helplessness

Why should members even pay attention during a lesson or program? If they "zone out" they can get that one on one time with their teacher. So, in order to lessen the grip of a Helpless Handraiser, there are some very real actions we can begin to wean off these members.

  1. Hustle

  2. Member raises hand

  3. Yes, Tonya?

  4. I need help with this.

  5. We just covered this in class and here is a quick reminder. I am going to help others. I bet you can do this.

  6. This interaction should take no longer than 10 seconds.

  1. Create Independence

  2. You can create independence by actively ensuring they participate in instruction, limiting corrective time with the member, and providing the member with leadership roles.

  1. Motivation

  2. Encourage members to be leaders with their learning.

  3. I am so happy you solved that problem Sarah, would you like to help Timothy with it? He is having a little bit of trouble.

What is your motivation for encouraging Helpless Handraisers to become independent learners?


Members have to be independent workers. When staff give corrective feedback, they neglect to actively supervise the room. Noise levels rise and members can experience more discipline issues.


Why should members pay attention and then fake not understanding when they can zone out and achieve the same result? Members will not work if we reward them for being dependent.

Members academically left behind

Members can play this game until they are so far behind that they are literally left behind. Fred Jones says, "Ceasing top pay attention pertains to students dropping out of school. When do you think students actually drop out? How about fourth grade? When do teachers start seeing it blatently? How about 5th grade? High school "st-risk" programs are sometimes a bit late."

While there is no fix all solution to classroom management, these tips regarding Helpless Handraisers can really help. It is also important to make sure you recognize the difference between a Helpless Handraiser, a member who needs help, and a member who is asking for attention due to a cry for help. Feel free to post questions, comments, etc. And don't forget to subscribe!

Information from Fred Jones' Tools for Teaching (2000)

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