Every teacher wants it. Kids sometimes want to give it. What is it? Attention!
No matter what the grade level you work with, you can pick fun ways to get the kids to stop, look, and listen. Then you can get down to the business of expanding their minds.
I'm going to share just a few techniques I've used with my students. My career has been spent working with elementary-age students. However, many of these techniques can be adjusted for use with middle- or high-school students.
Now, on with the show.
1) Call and Response
You say something, the kids say something related back. This past year, with my Kindergartners, I used “Peanut Butter” and “Jelly.” You can pick any pair, though. “Spongebob” and “Squarepants.” “Ready…Set” and “Go.” “One two three, eyes on me” and “One two, eyes on you.” You can even let your students help decide. The possibilities are endless.
When I do this, I often start out with a normal speaking voice, then start changing up my part with a silly voice or a whisper. This was a very effective and quick way to get their focus back on me at the end of work time or after an interruption.
2) Clap Back
It's tried and true, but it works. You clap out a pattern, the kids clap it back. Lather, rinse, repeat. At the beginning, my Kindergartners needed some practice with this, since they occasionally had problems hearing the patterns, but when I had 3rd graders, they were pros. With practice, though, this is a nice, voice-saving method of attention-getting.
This past year, one of my teammates brought this idea to my attention. I installed an inexpensive wireless doorbell in my room (I found one for less than $25 on Amazon), then picked a simple chime. I taught the kids to freeze when they heard the chime. They loved to freeze, and I loved getting their attention so quickly without having to do more than press a button.
If you choose to try this out, I would suggest changing the chime you use every once in a while to keep it fresh.
4) If You Hear Me
I use this method a lot. I say something like “If you can hear me, touch your nose,” then once some of the kids touch their nose, I change it up. “If you can hear me, touch your elbow.” I keep changing it up until all of the kids are following me.
I really like this strategy because I can change it up as I go, keeping the kids on their toes.
This one's simple and pretty effective. I usually announce my target, then start counting. For example, “By the time I get to ten, I need everyone in their chair.” The kids see this as a challenge, and this method even gets some math into the moment, which is an added bonus. You can change up how you count (backward, by 2s, by 5s, and so on) to keep this method from getting stale.
These are just a very few of the ways you can get your students' attention. When I began teaching, I had very few strategies beyond literally asking for attention–often in a loud voice. I am grateful for colleagues who demonstrated much better ways to get attention, and now I share them with you.
Do you have any fun methods for getting your students' focus on you? Please be sure to share in the comments below!
About the Author
Ruth Calkins is a freelance writer who is also a Kindergarten teacher at Flower Valley Elementary in Montgomery County, Maryland. She loves to write about her 20+ years as an educator–she has also taught technology, 3rd Grade, and 2nd Grade. These different levels have given her a wealth of different experience she brings into her Kindergarten classroom. When she isn’t writing or molding young minds, you can find her reading, writing, watching TV, or going to the movies. Her writing website can be found here.
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