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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Attention Grabbers

Attention Grabbers

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I am student teaching, and finding it hard to find what works for me when getting the attention of the class when they are doing activities such as group work. The teacher I am working with does a clap pattern thing, which the kids have to repeat, and it works great for him! However, I feel very unnatural doing it so I wanted to try other things. I have tried turning off the lights and all eyes on me, but I am not sure I love that idea either. Any suggestions would be appreciated! I hate just trying to yell over the kids. I am in a third grade classroom. Serena Update: Since this post was originally published, many of the tips submitted by commenters were collected together into a presentation. Click here to access the presentation:

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Todd Sentell's picture
Todd Sentell
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"

I'm helping Helena out with the track meets and yesterday afternoon was the junior varsity regional championship. Elbows and knees ... going as fast and as high as they can. Helena teaches language arts across the hall from me. She's the school track coach.

At the track meets I use the school's track and field team official megaphone so everybody can know real well how high and how fast their child went. You put that thing up to your lips and squeeze that trigger and blast out words that crackle like lightening.

I thought to bring it to class today. I thought to use it in class. By talking into it. The megaphone.

And now I'd like to offer up to my friends in the teaching business that the greatest tool for teaching 8th graders Georgia history is available at Radio Shack. It's the AmpliVox S602M 25W Piezo megaphone with a detachable mic. The model number is S602M and the catalog number is 55025884. There's also a switch you may accidentally push--twice--that makes the megaphone produce an extremely loud siren sound. Let's make that: siren brain-melting blast. I cannot tell you how loud this siren brain-melting blast is, but if you wanted to get the attention of some kids in Afghanistan while you were teaching Georgia history in the United States back over across the Atlantic Ocean then this is the switch you'd push on the AmpliVox S602M 25W Piezo megaphone with a detachable mic.

Georgia history spoken through a megaphone. The genius of it boggles the mind.

By the way, the greatest teaching tool on Earth for inattentive school kids costs only $109.99. It's worth every single nickel. Their extremely attentive expressions today were worth priceless Confederate bills.

Hope Tennant's picture

I teach 1st grade. I grab my class's attention by saying "Class! Class!" and they must all stop what they are doing and look at me, giving me their attention. They then respond "Yes! Yes!" It grabs their attention even in the noisest situations. Sometimes I'll count backwards saying "3 - 2- 1" at the end of which they clap and get quiet and face me. Of course, none of this is original with me - I beg, borrow, and steal from experienced teachers.

LydiaJacobs1's picture
teacher/tutor from South Florida

When I taught third grade a couple of years ago, I played Simon Says to get the kids' attention. I When I was ready to start a lesson, I would quietly say "Simon Says put your hands on your head." When the talkative kids noticed that the other kids had their hands on their heads, they would realize that I was talking and they would quietly join in. Once I had whole class participation, I would say "Simon says sit down" and would launch into my lesson.

Jess - 190297's picture
Jess - 190297
I am a new relief teacher seeking to enhance my classroom management skill

Hi everyone. I've just started teaching and found a great tip from an UK teaching site called TES. The short video gave some good examples about what to use, and a great tip for younger classes with the use of 'shhhh'ers. I used many suggestions and had the best teaching day (they were 6/7yr olds).

I got some Christmas bells and explained when I would use them when the the noise levels are getting too loud, and students needed o quite down.

When the noise levels got too high. I would ask chosen students to stand up to shhh their friends in the classroom and for students to get back on task. These tips worked a treat, without me having to raise my voice. Oh and its suggested you pick the noisy students to become your noise control helpers.

To gain their attention when I needed to give them directions I clapped my hands in a pattern for them to repeat.

cristina's picture
High School Algebra Teacher from Texas

I have been teaching for 15 years and I have never yelled at the students. I do raise my voice at them but never yell. When they are working in groups it does tend to get loud sometimes. But I let them know 10 minutes before there time is over how much time they have left. I keep reminding them until the end of those 10 minutes. They do really well at coming together and paying attention when time is up. One cool thing I learned today is that there is a timer you can install on your computer. You can project it with the projector and it lets the students know how much time is left. This can be used to let them know how much time they have left before they need to be quiet. I think that I will try that this week.

Jill Spencer's picture

Hi Serena,
Have you considered a classroom meeting where you pose the question to your students: How would you like me to call everyone's attention back to the front of the room? I bet they will have some good suggestion. Make it a teacheable moment--have them work in pairs to come up with reasons why one method is superior to another (building their argument skills for the Common Core)--ask them to give evidence to support their reasons. Take a vote and then use the method. After the first day, be sure to take time to have the class reflect on how the method worked--what worked well, what needs to be tweaked, etc. I would do some reflection day 2 and 3 also. By giving them the power to suggest, they become owners of the method. Good luck!

Vickie E Martinez's picture
Vickie E Martinez
Vice Principal at Montebello Christian School

I tell my class at the beginning of school (and again when we start our group work or projects), that they can work until the lights go off. Lights off is the signal to stop, they need to freeze and listen for directions. It works great, when the lights go off it gets everyone's attention and everyone freezes. I give my clean up instructions and the time allotted then turn the lights back on. They go into action and follow directions.
I also have a timer with a loud bell. The bell means to freeze and listen for directions.

Shelagh's picture

I always liked to use the "if you can hear my voice clap once. If you can hear my voice clap twice. If you can hear my voice touch your head. If you can hear my voice say gravity (or some other related vocab word)." This allows you to adjust for attention ability at the moment, while even engaging the students in a little bit of content. It still uses clapping, so isn't too different from the classroom teacher, but is different and your own.

Denise Walker's picture

I sing to my third graders. I sing "Hey third graders" in a sing-songy way. they sing back "Yes Mrs. Walker" and it is amazing oh much attention it commands. They love it and I can them give my directions.

Alexandra Byrne's picture
Alexandra Byrne
Biology Teacher in the Making!!

Throughout my life I has always struggled in grabbing the attention of a group. When my students start to work on a task, it has seemed nearly impossible to regain their focus. I have observed teachers that have the natural talent or the voice to reconvene the class; my professors at Pepperdine appear to do so effortless. A commanding voice is not something I was blessed with, and this has proved to hinder my effectiveness in the classroom. I recently bought zenergy chimes at the suggestion of other teachers. Does anyone have any other suggestions of older students?

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