In the middle of a lesson on Chaucer, my high school English teacher suddenly started mooing.
You read that right- MOOOOOOOOOOO!
We all stopped our side conversations, doodling, note-passing, and looked up at Mr. Block. He then continued his lesson as if he hadn’t just done the weirdest thing. But now, he had our attention.
Besides mooing, Mr. Block stood on tables, tapped shoulders, made jokes, and misspelled words on the board to make sure we were following along.
Even though he was a great teacher and made English fun, we didn’t listen to him all the time. He was a genius at ‘bringing us back,’ however, and had a bag of attention-getting tricks to refocus us.
Every teacher will have times when students will be off-task, whether they’re chatting, dozing off, doodling, or any other inattentive activity. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as good at getting kids’ attention as Mr. Block (what beats mooing??), but here are some LISTEN-planning tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that have saved my sanity (and may help save yours). P.S. You may also like these posts about EOY class management and the system I use for year-round classroom management.
Tips for Getting Students’ Attention
- Wait– Seriously, just wait silently…… you’ll see kids start nudging each other and point to the teacher statue.
- Ring a bell– and wait….. don’t use the same bell or sound too often or kids will learn to zone it out!
- Turn off the lights.
- Count backwards- Lower your voice with each number so that by the time you get to zero, it’s inaudible and kids are super quiet.
- Sing a song- Just start singing your lesson to a familiar tune!
- Clap a beat- Clap a beat and have students repeat it. Do a few times, using different beats and even foot stomps. Teach them this beforehand.
- Finish the Phrase– Say the first part of a phrase, and have kids say the 2nd part. For example, Teacher: Heeeeey, Students: Hooooo. Or, T: Hocus Pocus, S: Everyone Focus. Another one you can teach them beforehand.
- Silent Simon Says– Without giving directions, just stop talking and touch your head, wait, then touch your shoulders, nose, etc. until students are following your movements.
- Thank a Role Model- The praise effect is real. Complimenting someone on the right track: “I love how —- is working quietly/ whispering to his partner/ sitting and waiting…..” is very powerful in getting others to follow!
- Use Close Proximity– Stand near students who are off task, give a gentle tap on the shoulder, walk around the room.
- Change Your Voice– Everyone zones out the same voice after a while! Speak in a high/ deep/ silly voice to get their attention.
- Whisper– Similar to changing your voice, but even more effective! Changing your voice can sometimes get kids silly (if they echo you), but if you whisper, they have to quiet down to hear you. Plus, a whispering teacher can be mysterious, intriguing (or even a little scary).
- Brain Break! Sometimes, everyone just needs a break! Get up and stretch! One of my favorite quick brain breaks is having kids tiptoe around the classroom with 2 challenges: can’t touch anyone or anything. This eliminates silly bumping into each other. When they hear me start counting backwards, they start making their way back to the meeting place.
- Include Opportunities for Talking- We can’t expect kids to stay quiet for long periods of time (most teachers can’t!). Try to incorporate ‘turn and talk’, working with partners/ groups, and interactive learning as much as possible and this will help reduce chatting. For a post on incorporating movement to engage students, click here: 5 Ways to Teach Sight Words with Movement
And if all else fails, mooooooooo! 🙂
I know you have some great ideas to share! Add them in the comments below! Here is the link to my post about my behavior management system: Behavior Management for Whole-Class, Groups, and Individual Students.