April 16, 2013

Easy Ways to Get Students' Attention

We've all been in that classroom where the teacher is constantly shouting at her kids to do this and do that. Hey, we might even have been that teacher on an occasion (or two...or three...or four). Having a room full of twenty-something energy-filled kiddos is a recipe for instant chaos. 

Learning the art of quieting students and redirecting their attention can go a long way to keeping chaos on a short leash. I'm certainly not a master at this skill, but there are a few tricks I've picked up from those 'super teachers' who are. Here are a few:

  • The S.O.S. Clap: The teacher claps out the SOS pattern and the students immediately respond by clapping out the pattern back (a simpler pattern to clap would be 'Clap {beat} clap {beat} clap clap clap'). The beauty of this technique is that if a child doesn't hear you clap, they can't help but hear their 19 classmates responding all at once. This means that after about 5 seconds, you have the entire class' attention without having to say one word. This also worked well on the playground. When it was time to come in, I would clap and the kids would clap back. We'd keep up the clap until everyone was in line. 
  • The Whisper Trick: If your students are all seated (in circle time, at their seats, etc), but chatter has taken over the lesson, try this one out. Simply give these commands in a very quiet voice: "If you can hear me, put your hands on your head. ...If you can hear me, stand up. ...If you can hear me stand up and say hello. ...If you can hear me, put your finger on your nose." Within ten seconds, the still-chatty students will notice that their classmates are all doing the same thing and they will get quiet so they can hear the next instructions in the 'game.'
  • Simon Says: Similar to the last tip, this one involves busting out into a spontaneous game of Simon Says. Very few children have the willpower to resist playing a game and they will most likely immediately hone in on 'Simon' (aka- YOU) to hear the next command. This one worked wonders for me with my 5th graders. Instead of raising my voice and getting angry, we played 20 seconds of Speedy Simon Says. And of course, the last few commands always instructed them to 'sit down' and 'take out____' so that the next part of our day could begin.
Do you have a trick that works for you? How do you get the attention of your class?


    1. Love these tips! Thanks for sharing! One thing that has worked well for me is the 'Give Me Five' technique. I hold my finger over my mouth and hold my other hand up in the air (high-five style). When kids see me, they do the same thing. Soon, the entire class is quiet and watching me with their hand in the air.

    2. I have used all of these tips at one time or another. One that little ones love that wasn't mentioned is when I turn off the lights, the kids have to freeze. By asking them to freeze, the result is silence. If you just tell them to get quiet when the lights are off, sometimes they stop talking but keep working. They also get a kick out of the way I freeze.

    3. I say "Hands on Top" and the students respond, "That means stop!" and put their hands on their heads.

    4. I have used "Hocus Pocus" and they respond with "Let's focus" :)

    5. When giving multi-step directions, you always have kids who are opening desks, moving, etc. before you're finished. They don't hear the last steps, distract others, etc. Using the Kelloggs Rice Krispies ditty, I say, "We need to snap." Students respond, "Crackle." I give the directions, ending with "Pop," at which point everybody moves to follow the directions. (I suppose I could be accused of advertising. Usually kids don't even recognize it.)

    6. Great ideas. Thanks for sharing!
      Another idea I have used is called "La caja de sorpresa" (the surprise box) when I take it out, they immediately quiet down and pay attention. They already know that there are little surprises in there for those that are paying attention and not talking. In the little box I would have things such as stickers, pencils, cute erasers, race cars, bracelets, etc. They are inexpensive items you can purchase at the dollar store.


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