Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

a smiling woman giving a thumbs up

Purpose:  to practice responding to verbal questions, and explaining rationale for responses

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Materials Needed:  Set of yes/no questions, true/false questions, or agree/disagree statements


  1. Tell the class that you are going to ask a question, and that you want them to show a thumbs up to answer yes, and a thumbs down to answer no. Ask them to wait until you count to three to show their answer.
  2. Model asking the question, waiting until the count of three, and showing your answer two times. Then have the class practice together two times.
  3. Ask the class a yes/no question.  After you count to three, have them show their answer. The questions can be from a reading, from the weekly topic, or general knowledge questions.
  4. Have the learners turn to the person next to them and share why they answered yes or no. Then go over the answer and the reason as a whole class.
  5. Repeat steps three and four with the remaining questions.

Modification 1: Follow the same procedure for true/false questions. The learners show a thumbs up for true, and a thumbs down for false.

Modification 2: For higher level learners, follow the same procedure to show whether the learners agree or disagree with a statement. The learners show a thumbs up if they agree with the statement, and a thumbs down if they disagree. You can also allow learners to put their thumb sideways if the statement is neutral for them, but they still need to be able to explain their rationale to their partner.

Modification 3: At the end of an explanation or an activity, have the learners show you with their thumbs how comfortable they feel with the topic. The learners show a thumbs up if they understand 100%, a thumb sideways if they understand but still have questions, and a thumbs down if they don’t understand at all. This will let you know if you should do more practice or review the topic.

Transitions Integration Framework (TIF) category/skill/sub-skill:

Critical Thinking

Skill 1: Organize, analyze and illustrate relationships between components, items, and ideas

Sub Skills: d. Support positions using prior knowledge and supporting evidence

Skill 4: Recognize bias, assumptions and multiple perspectives

Sub Skills: b. Identify and compare perspectives/points of view of self and others

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