Hand signals have worked for me with both lower and upper elementary students. I have used some of these on occasion in ministry contexts with middle school and high school. I’m guessing you can find an application in the home as well.
Be aware that some hand signals mean different things to different cultures. You may need to modify or not use some of these.
This worked if I needed to call an individual up to my desk or out of an assembly. It also worked to line my students up after recess. Instead of calling out for my class to line up, I just stood where they needed to line up and held up my first finger. If students were pre-occupied playing, I just looked at my watch while continuing to raise that first finger. Students knew I was keeping track of the minutes they were loosing off the next recess if they didn’t come. As soon as someone saw me both giving the Come command and looking at my watch, they encouraged each other to come.
2. Be Quiet.
If class became too loud or if an individual needed to stop talking, I showed this command.
3. Please Be Seated.
I often used this to let the class know it was time go back to their chairs after partner time on the floor.
4. Keep Hands, Feet, & Objects to Yourself.
A student may protest, “But I didn’t touch him!” when a backpack or pencil or flying projectile is causing conflict between students. This command, hands, feet, AND OBJECTS covers a multitude of sins.
5. I Love You Very Much.
High-fives work great as children come in and as they leave for the day. My upper elementary boys used to hit me as hard as they could on high-fives. I always thanked them for letting me know how much they loved me. They rolled their eyes, of course, but I loved having a tangible way to let them know I loved them.
(For all my former students and youth group kids out there—#5 still applies!)
8. We will talk about this later.
It would make more sense for this to be a code 6. At one time I had something designated for 6-10, but 8 is the only one that became popular. I, and my students, used 8 for all the times when a topic came up that would better be discussed later. To make the 8 sign one handed—I held up 5 fingers on one hand, then brought my thumb and pointer finger together into an okay sign so 3 fingers were left showing.
Why bother with hand signals?
1) They save your voice. (I’ve learned the hard way what it’s like to have nodules. You don’t want to go there.)
2) They build class unity. (Or family unity, cabin unity, school unity, youth group unity.)
3) They give you a way to practice your “ministry of repetition” (to borrow a phrase from Jim Berg) while you “let your words be few” (to borrow a phrase from Ecclesiastes).
Why not give it a try? Use these or develop your own. Let me know what works for you.