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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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Comments (73)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

I've always believed in using my voice as little as possible to get the attention of students. Raising an arm in the air, just at the height of your head with an open palm, and then waiting really works. Of course, they have to get used to this. I also use this strategy with adult learners.

What other non-verbal attention grabbers are out there?


Yo Miss's picture
Yo Miss
8th grade English language arts teacher in urban school district

It took me a while to find out what works for me, too, Serena. Maracas, sleigh bells, clapping...What works the best for me and my students is a) I give them a 5 minute or 2 minute (or so) warning so they know to start winding down and then b) when it's time, I put my hand in the air and count down from 5 to 1. It's something a lot of teachers in my building do, so the students are used to it. that I've written that, perhaps you should see what other teachers do most commonly in your building and see how that works with your students. Best of luck on your journey!

Bettie's picture

We all know the moment when we are waiting and the kids are simply NOT tuning in. It is at this time that I use a simple little strategy that popped into my head one day while teaching my 3/4's in the gym. I tell them I am waiting in a quiet voice. If this does not get their attention, I say, "TIMING!" The class must then be quiet for ten seconds before we move forward. If one person talks or makes a purposeful sound (real coughs and sneezes are excused), I say, "Starting again." I have never had to wait for more than forty seconds (and often no more than ten) since developing this strategy.

Ms. Bailey's picture

I am also a third grade student teacher. My co op uses all of the same strategies to gain the attention of the students and I have yet to find one that works best for me. I did however observe my students in their art special. The art teacher uses this to gain the student's attention: " I need your attention in 3..2..1" What is great about this is the teacher can speed the counting up or down depending on the students' responses. Maybe we both ought to give this a try! Good luck!

Nicole's picture
Third grade teacher from South Carolina

There is one thing that has been effective that several teachers in my school use. It is the rain stick. The teachers will turn it upside down three times. The expectation is clear to the students that by the third time they should be quiet and ready to listen. This may not work for you, but it might be a little more natural for you. Clapping patterns did not work for me either.

Aitza's picture

As a fifth grade very interactive math teacher, who coaches different sports have noticed that the whistle is definitely an attention grabber. When I split up my students into groups and the time is up for discussion I blow my whistle and say this phrase, "When I talk! they all respond right away, We listen and when we talk you listen!" They love the fact of the initial shock of the whistle being blown. In addition, the phrase alone speaks for itself. I explain to them if you were talking would you want someone else to be talking at the same time, and ofcourse their response is no. So with that respect in mind, by me stating, when I talk you listen, the students are engaged in a group discussion with me and the rest of their peers. It is definitely a great way to catch their attention. So if you can purchase a whistle and use the phrase. Let me know if it works.

Rachael Morphew's picture
Rachael Morphew
Site Supervisor: After School Program

I say this little rhyme and it always gets there attention:
"One, two, eyes on who?"
and then the kids reply:
"One, Two, eyes on you. Ziiiiip"
I let them elongate the zip. It gives them a chance to get that last bit of noise out before I need there full attention.

Miss Brenda's picture
Miss Brenda
Program Director at a Boys and Girls Club

My advice would be to be patient and be flexible. Wait to move on until everyone has given you their attention. If you have tried an attention getter and it didn't work, be willing to try something different. Here is my blog post on attention getters if you are looking for details:

My favorites are "If you can see me, make the silly face I am making" and "I say chocolate, you say cake! CHOCOLATE! CAKE! CHOCOLATE! CAKE!"

Heather's picture
Elementary Teacher, Maryland

I have been teaching almost ten years and have to admit I still can not get comfortable or feel that the repeating clapping technique is successful for me. I have tried many ways as well and from year to year I have to find new ways that work for each group of students or individual classes.

I have to say I love the idea of the timer. Its a great idea for group work but I feel that I would also have to have a follow up to get them to freeze and come back together as a class. I normally in a few low voice say if you can hear me touch your head, if you can hear me touch your nose and if you can hear me clap twice. By then usually everyone is with me and we can come back together.

The books and resources that have been suggested will most certainly offer great ideas and strategies as well. It is always helpful to talk with others and get new ideas.

Best of luck!

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