Informal Scout Signals




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By Bob Geier

Several "meeting management" signals used among youth and adult leaders, particularly to "coach" the youth running the meeting without being obtrusive. As follows:

1. "Move it along/keep it moving". Hand with index finger extended moves in a small, rapid circle.

2. "Focus the discussion". Two hands, palms open facing each other, move together and stop about 1" from "praying position."

3. "Watch the time". Right hand, first two fingers gently tap left wrist in the normal position for a wristwatch.

4. "Your call". Traditional shoulder shrug. Used when looked at for information/confirmation.

5. "Time to take a break." Two hands, in fists next to each other, rotated 90 degrees upward and away from each other, as in breaking a stick.

6. "Speak up/louder." Hand, palm open, placed behind ear.

7. "Let it happen." Hands interlocked, thumbs extended moving in small circles (thumb-twiddling). Used to suggest older Scouts/Scouters refrain from intervening.

8. "Keep an eye on him". Hand, first two fingers spread and pointing at your own eyes, followed by a quick point at the subject. Sometimes preceded by quick points at the intended supervisor. Used to assign/confirm older scout/adult "hands on" supervision of someone/some group.

Like number 8 above, several other Safety Afloat/whitewater signals that have crossed over into the troop and crew:

1. Are you OK/I'm OK. Palm open, hand taps top of head from the side several times. Affirmative reply is to repeat the sign back.

2. "Emergency/Alert". Full arm or preferably object/paddle extended overhead, waiving back and forth. Particularly as a response to the I'm OK sign.

3. "All clear/OK to go." Full arm or object extended overhead stationary.

4. "Go left/go right." Full arm or object extended overhead at 45 degree angle in the intended direction of travel.

5. "Stop". Arms extended straight horizontally, or object held above head horizontally. Alternate: arm extended, palm open and up in the "police stop" sign.

A bunch of traditional hand signals, especially for affirmation.

1. Thumb's up = Nice job. 

2. A-OK (right hand, thumb touching forefinger, other fingers extended) = Perfect. 

3. Arm, hand in fist, pulled sharply backward while looking down = Yes! 

4. On-the-nose (right hand, index finger extended, moves in and touches or taps nose several times) = exactly correct.

How effective are they? Are these used routinely?

Most are quite effective, and are used often.

How are these taught?

Mostly by osmosis, occasionally explicitly. Of course, the river signals are taught explicitly as part of Safety Afloat.

Are they documented / diagrammed anywhere?

In our internal scouters' handbook. River signals are ACA/AW.

How are these accepted by your Scouts?

Quite naturally, especially by the older boys. It's vaguely part of the "special inside language" that means you're part of the leadership group.






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.