These visual and auditory cues can assist middle and high school teachers in quickly re-orienting students. Classroom management can be one of the most difficult challenges for many new teachers.
Raising your voice may feel like the only option when students are engaged in a loud activity or simply not meeting expectations if you don’t have a toolbox of strategies to get their attention. To avoid creating a negative classroom culture, which ultimately impedes learning, new teachers, or teachers facing new circumstances in this less-than-ideal school year, can employ these attention-getters.
It’s critical to explicitly teach students what your expectations are for how they should respond to each of the attention-getters listed below. For older students, it will most likely only take a few minutes to demonstrate the attention-getter and share your expectations—voices are silent, and eyes are fixed on the board.
7 EFFECTIVE ATTENTION-GETTERS
1. The Clap-In (or Snap-In): For good reason, the clap-in is a classic attention-getter! While many teachers raise their voices when the classroom becomes too loud, clapping is an equally visible but far more positive way to get students’ attention. Simply choose a clap-in pattern and have students repeat it back. As more students join in, the clap spreads across the room until all students are clapping and finishing their conversations.
There are a few things you can do to make this more interesting for students. Starting with a clap and progressing to snaps is one option. This necessitates students being even quieter in order to hear the pattern you snap and then repeat. You can also choose a student to lead the clap-in or snap-in in order to increase your investment in the attention-getter. Finally, rather than inventing your own pattern, you can collaborate with your students to create a one-of-a-kind clap-in or snap-in pattern for your class.
2. Give Me Five: This is a great option that not only draws students’ attention back to you but also allows them to collaborate to get everyone back on track. Raise your hand high for this one so that students can see you. Each student will raise their hand as soon as they see the signal. This will continue until all students silently raise their hands and look to you for further instructions.
To make things more interesting, I timed my students to see how long it takes everyone to raise their hands and then challenged them to beat their time. This has proven to be an extremely effective method of capturing the attention of all students.
3. Class-Wide Countdown: Similar to Give Me Five, this strategy has a cascade effect across the classroom as students join in to bring their attention back to the teacher.
To use this strategy, the teacher starts a countdown, usually from 10, but teachers can adjust for their specific groups; as students hear the countdown, they join in until all students are participating. When the entire class reaches zero, everyone falls silent and returns their attention to the teacher.
4. Call-and-Response: Using a call-and-response is another simple way to get students’ attention, as they will have to not only listen in order to participate but also stop any side conversations in order to provide an accurate response. This attention-getter allows for a lot of room for creativity, which both teachers and students can use to create the best calls and responses for them.
Similar to the Clap/Snap-In, it is beneficial to involve students in the process of creating these calls-and-responses and then practice how they sound and what students are expected to do when they hear them.
5. Timer/Song: This strategy draws attention to a specific timed activity by using other sounds rather than a teacher’s voice.
I employ this strategy when assigning a group or partner task to my students for a set amount of time. When they begin, I begin the timer or song (instrumental works best! ), and students are expected to end their conversations and return their attention to me by the time the timer or song ends. The timer is best suited to potentially louder group activities, whereas the song is ideal for a slightly quieter partner activity.
6. Hit the Lights: I only use this strategy when I need students’ attention back up front on me right away. A quick flash of the lights, similar to the theater signal that a performance is about to begin, can alert students that something is about to happen. I explicitly tell them that a quick flash of the lights means they must silence their voices and track me.
This is a strategy I frequently employ when students are working in groups and I only need to remind them of one quick piece of information but intend to let them resume working at their previous noise level.
7. Sound Effects: This strategy can be a more enjoyable way to get students’ attention, but it must be explicitly taught so that students are mature and meet expectations when it is used.
For this strategy, the teacher should choose a sound—I like this one—that will quickly draw students’ attention and play it when necessary. My students are aware that when they hear the sound, they must remain seated and silently track me for directions.