Many times throughout the school day we need to gain the attention of our class. There are hundreds of ways to do this, it’s just a matter of choosing one that you enjoy and find effective. Some are more suited to junior classes and some to senior levels.
There are two main methods to gain children’s attention immediately:
Call and Response or Other Attention Getters. Whichever method you choose, think about what year level you teach and what strategy would be most successful. Once you have chosen a method you will need to:
- explicitly teach it
- offer a reward for successful attention gaining, only in the first few days or weeks following introduction
- repeat training throughout the year
- stick with the same method for the entire year (unless it doesn’t work for that particular cohort)
- possibly introduce a consequence for the whole class or individuals who are not responding
Call and response
I have found that call and response attention gainers are the most effective strategy for all year levels. Below is a list, by no means is it comprehensive.
- Clapping hands in some sort of pattern and children repeat
- Singing a line and children sing back
- 1,2,3/eyes on me
- 1,2,3 eyes on me/1,2 eyes on you
- Shhhhing in a pattern and children repeat
- Can I get a…../woop woop
- 1,2,3,4,5/once I caught a fish alive
- pause/children hold both hands up in fists like paws. Cannot keep fiddling!
- To the Spice Girls tune: Stop right now/thank you very much
- Sing: Are you listening?/Yes we are!
Some teachers prefer to use a slightly softer method than the traditional call and response. If you are using a noisemaker, such as a musical instrument, you need to have a strict ‘teacher only’ touching rule. These could include:
- A bell
- A few bars of music, just keep it the same
- Whistle (possibly not great inside!)
- A shaker (like a maraca)
- Hold your arm in the air until all children have copied and fall silent
- Call out S.L.L. (stop, look, listen)
- Call out S.A.L.A.M.I (stop and look at me immediately)
- Countdown from five to zero, using your hand as a visual countdown at the same time
- Tambourine shake
- Use weird sounds on your iPad such as frogs or crickets chirping.
I currently teach Visual Arts. This means I have 14 different class groups a week from junior to senior. By mid Term Two it became apparent that my methods for gaining attention were failing, apart from in the prep classes. I realised that every single teacher used a different method for their class, one they’d taught them and had become ingrained since the beginning of the year. They weren’t responding to mine as it wasn’t their usual trigger. It was simply too difficult to determine the method for each class and then try to remember it in a flash when I needed to gain attention.
My solution has been fantastic. I decided to choose a unique call and response method that no other teacher used, and spend time at the start of the lesson for two weeks, training and giving feedback. I use ‘Can I get a…..”/“Woop, woop.” I was slightly concerned after I started teaching it that it was a bit over the top but it has worked brilliantly.
When I first introduced it I had them practise four or five times throughout the lesson and rewarded them. If they all stopped talking and working immediately then they got a point. If not, I got a point. At the end of the lesson if they had beaten me they chose a five minute reward to be used next lesson. Some ideas they came up with were:
- Lunch or snack five minutes early
- Whole class indoor or outdoor game
- Adding to their own class reward
- Five minutes on the play equipment.
I have very strict rules around all call and response methods. Children are NEVER to use it themselves. If I hear it happening they lose rewards like house points or free time minutes. This is so it doesn’t become overused and children end up not responding to me.
I’d love to hear of any other methods you have seen or used!