Ten ways to gain a class’s attention

In my job, I’m fortunate in visiting lots of schools. I ask the class teacher I’m working with how they usually gain the children’s attention and then use that familiar strategy. This is useful on the day, but has also given me an insight into the variety of strategies teachers use. There seem to be three broad categories – call & response, music & rhythm, and silent strategies – but an almost endless inventive variety within these. Here are my top ten.

Call and response

This takes many forms, but in all the teacher says a word or phrase and the pupils respond, orienting to the teacher and then listening. Examples I have heard include:

“Active…” “…listening”

“One, two, three, eyes on me” “One, two, eyes on you”

“One, two, three, four, five…” “…once I caught a fish alive.”

And one from @FerryNqt on Twitter: “Avengers…” “…assemble!”

Music and Rhythm

One option is to use a musical note to signal attention. The teacher uses a chime or triangle to sound the note. In one case the teacher played a piano chord, but that was in a music room and they had a piano. I have to say that I’ve heard about this technique more than actually seen it used, perhaps because of the inconvenience of needing to carry the musical instrument around with you. The exception is, of course the ubiquitous and invaluable playground whistle.

Many teachers prefer to use clapping rhythms rather than speaking. The teacher claps a simple rhythm and the children repeat it. This gets attention quickly because you have to listen to the rhythm in order to repeat it. The simplest I have heard is just three short claps, but the teacher can be more inventive, using more complex rhythms.

In some Oxfordshire schools I’ve seen this developed into a game to include one rhythm that’s NOT clapped back, so the rhythm _ _ . . . Stands for ‘don’t-clap-this-one-back.’ This requires the children to be more attentive so that they don’t get caught out.

Actions speak louder than words

Some teachers prefer an attention routine that requires no sound at all, simply raising their hand when they require a class’s attention. The children respond by doing the same, stopping all talk and activity to face towards their teacher.

There are a couple of variants to this, usually used to teach young classes who might be slow to refocus their attention from what they are doing and onto their teacher.

In ‘Pause your paws’ the teacher holds one or both hands up closed (perhaps saying ‘pause’); the class respond by holding both their hands up to show their ‘paws’.

Alternatively the teacher may hold their hand (or both hands) up with outstretched fingers and count down to zero by fingers one at a time. As the children notice they copy the countdown until by ‘zero’ they are all attentive. This may later be developed into a simple countdown without the hands.

I hope you found these ideas useful. If you give one of them a try, I’d love to hear how it worked out. Perhaps you use another technique that you’d like to share? Either way, please use the comments.

If you’re interested in children’s behaviour, you might like my post Does windy weather wind kids up?

Image: unsplash.com


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