The best-kept secret a teacher has in their back pocket is a variety of ways to quiet their classroom, grab their students’ attention, and keep it.
Once a teacher can do that, it’s smooth sailing from there. It is essential that you have a verbal or non-verbal signal that will grab your students’ attention quickly. This will not only help with transition periods but will work great in an emergency situation as well. Here is a collection of quiet cues and attention getters for you to use in your classroom. These signals are not one-size-fits-all. Some work better than others depending upon the situation that you are in, or the activity you are doing.
Verbal Attention Signals
Here is a variety of verbal attention getters. Choose one or choose a few.
- Teacher says, “Clap your hands, stomp your feet, I want your bottoms in your seat!” Students then know to sit down.
- Teacher says, “Macaroni and cheese.” Students’ response: “Everybody freeze.”
- Teacher says, “Hocus pocus.” Students’ response: “Everybody focus.”
- Teacher says, “Ready to rock.” Students’ response: “Ready to roll.”
- Teacher says, “One, two.” Students’ response: “Eyes on you.”
- Teacher says. “One, two, three, eyes on me.” Students respond, “Three, two, one, talking is done.”
- Teacher claps once and students respond with two claps.
- Teacher says, “Class, class,” and students respond with, “Yes, yes.” It’s a whole-brain teaching technique that a lot of teachers swear by.
- When students are working in groups, the teacher says, “On your feet, find your seat.” Then students know to hurry up and get back to their original seats.
- Teacher says, “If you hear my voice, clap once, if you hear my voice clap twice.” The teacher continues until he/she sees all of the students clapping.
Non-Verbal Attention Signals
These non-verbal attention signals are perfect for field trips, school assemblies, or anytime you want students’ attention in a quiet way. Try a few or try them all to see which ones work best for your classroom.
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- Teacher raises her hand to signal, “Give me five.” Students’ response: They raise their hand.
- Purchase a bell, timer, or portable doorbell. Whenever students hear the sound, they know to stop what they are doing and focus their attention on the teacher.
- Purchase or make a pair of “magic glasses.” When students see you put these special glasses on, they know it is time to be quiet and focus on you.
- Purchase or make a “whisper wand.” Place this vibrating or soft-sounding wand on any surface; then students know to be quiet. You can also find a wand that lights up so you can wave it around to quietly get students’ attention.
- The teacher stands quietly in front of the students and holds up a card that reads “eyes on me” or it can have a picture of a child sitting quietly with their hands folded at their desk ready to learn. When students see this picture, they know it’s a cue to focus on the teacher.
Tips for Getting and Keeping Students’ Attention
- Practice! In the beginning of the school year, teach your students a few signals that you will be using throughout the year. Each day, teach students one signal and use that signal throughout the day. For a fun way to practice, play the freeze game with the students.
- Make it fun for students when you do a verbal signal and change it up every once in a while. Try singing the cue, or saying it really fast, or stretching it out really slow. Students will think it’s hilarious, and you will definitely grab their attention.
- Create a box of musical instruments. Every time you want the students’ attention, all you have to do is go into the box and choose a diffident instrument to play.
Being able to get and keep your students’ attention is important. Effective teaching requires it. Once you find one or two signals that work for your classroom, keep them and make sure to use them often.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. As a trained educational professional, she utilizes her experience to provide content and knowledge to the online community. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.