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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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Amber Henrey's picture
Amber Henrey
4th grade techie teacher by day, mom of 3 and Masters student by night.

I have several that work for different grade levels. The big thing is training. Train them to give you their full body attention each time. Reward them often with compliments.

Sing Song voice attention getters ( I change for different holidays):

"Chicka Chicka" and the kids reply "Boom Boom
"skunk in the barn yard" and the kids reply "P-U"
"Hey You" and the kids reply "hey what?"
"Ghost in the Graveyard" and the kids reply "Boo!"
You get the idea...

Then we have the no nonsense getters:

The count down. "I need everyones attention in 5-4-3-2-1-0" Start loud then get quiet by the zero.

The may I have your attention please. Let them know that if you have to say it a second time it is a sign of disrespect. Tell them this is reserved for VIPs and very important announcements. Don't over use it.

Then there is always the silent signal...compliment the kids that catch on to it and give you the signal back.

Lastly- the funny two I save for feel good days "rub your head and pat your belly until I say ________" (chicken, popsicle...) and the "freeze like a ________" (chicken, popsicle...)

Good Luck! Reward with smiles!

Lizamarie614's picture
Seventh grade English teacher from Suffern, New York

From the beginning of the year, I try to establish a tone of respect between myself and my kids. I explain that having fun, interesting and engaging conversations should always be a part of their learning, but there are times when I have to give directions. I keep things simple. I do not yell. I announce, "Please end your conversations in 5...4...3...2...1." As the year progresses, I simply have to count backwards. My fiancee was amazed that on a field trip to a Six Flags Amusement Park, I got the attention of 75 kids simply by counting backwards. :-)

Lin Jenkins's picture

Several teachers in our independent school (including myself) have purchased small chimes from Woodstock Chimes ( come with a wooden striker and have a lovely tone. We use them for attention focus and they work really well (and yes, a student can use the chime, but he/she had better have something important to say). The sound carries even in a noisy room, and doesn't feel disruptive or grating.

Our school has no school-wide bells, so in my computer lab/classroom I also use it to signal that the class is ending. At the beginning of class, I announce the time that they need to leave and the time that we need to sound a 5-minute warning, then a child gets the rotating position of Timekeeper; the Timekeeper watches the clock at the bottom of his/her screen and when that magic 5-minute moment arrives, is allowed to STAND ON HIS/HER CHAIR and ring the chime. That child is then responsible for putting the chime away and seeing that everyone logs out, pushes in keyboard & chair, & lines up in time for the next group. It's a coveted privilege for K through 6... and last year when the 8th graders met in my lab temporarily they immediately asked who would get to be Timekeeper? (Whenever possible, outsource responsibility to the kids!)

Nicole Cameron's picture
Nicole Cameron
second grade teacher - GA

I have used the clapping pattern and it worked well. Another thing I tried was to call "Class Class" and the kids reply "yes yes". This worked well. Also I've used if you can hear my voice clap two times. The ones that hear it clap and it gets the attention of the others. I think I like that process the best.

Nicole Cameron's picture
Nicole Cameron
second grade teacher - GA

Hi Serena,
I have used the clap system, also announcing "Class Class" in return the kids reply "yes yes". What seems to work best for me is saying...if you can hear my voice clap two times. The ones that hear me clap and draw the attention of the ones that don't.

Stephanie's picture
2nd grade regular ed. teacher from San Diego, CA

It varies depending on the transition and noise level. I use the copy cat method sometimes, too, when I'm lining up the children for assembly or lunch. I do add quiet, calm directions as I'm modeling the command, such as, "If you can hear me touch your head. If you can hear me touch your nose...your shoulders, etc." It works well. In class when they're in science groups, for example, I will sometimes use my xylophone to alert them that we're coming back to whole group discussion. Xylophones look different. Mine only has 4 metal tubes and sometimes I'll chime it 1 or 2 times until the class is silenced. Sometimes I mix it up to play all 4 tones. I find it to be a nice way to vary the "call to attention."

Patty's picture

I teach 10th grade, and this strategy works for them even though it was repurposed from element/middle...discuss the need to get students' attention quickly with the students, explain why attention is important. Then, as a group come up with a two part word or phrase together. An example would be "cool whip", "focus time", "red robin, yummmmm", etc.

The procedure is key, you will raise your hand in the air and say the first part of the word, every student will then immediately raise their hand, and respond with the second portion, and no further talking or movement may happen. I.e. The class is working and you need to call their attention so u raise your hand and say cool, the students will stop what they ate doing, look at you and respond "whip" as they raise their hand. They keep their hand up until yours goes down, which won't happen until you have all eyes on you.

Now, I realize this may seem odd, but it works as long as you always do this procedure. I never ask for attention, sush, call quiet, or anything else. I simply raise my hand and speak one word and wait. For the first week or so it may take a couple minutes to get everyone on board, but after that it is smooth sailing. My kids work in quads all day so I use this often and it doesn't get stale because the words are silly. One class voted I say "Red Robbin" in th sing song voice from the commercials and their response was "yummmmm". I even let the kids change the phrase if the class votes for it, so in one class last year we went from "gucci-time" to "focus-time" to " cats-meow". It is student led so the choices can get weird, but at your level you shouldn't have to worry about anything too bad being suggested. Caution on the Red Robbin one though, depending on your personality, I one day accidentally said "red rum" instead of "red robin" and the kids died laughing. So, have fun with it. Lol. I really hope this helps!

Kimberly Hyde's picture
Kimberly Hyde
6-8th grade teacher from Orleans, CA

What I find helpful is to continue the technique used by the previous teacher. In our school we all countdown from five and it is amazing how effective it is because the kids have been responding to this prompt since kindergarten.

Nicole Naditz's picture
Nicole Naditz
Teacher of French, levels 1-AP, near Sacramento, CA

I'm a language teacher...which means my students are always talking! As a result, I need to get their attention quickly, but I find my strategies depend on my mood and on the particular group of students, or even on what we will be doing next. I use timers on my white board, portable kitchen timers and I sometimes use the lights. I haven't found that clapping matched my style, but many elementary teachers instead raise their hand (or have a specific hand signal) and as students notice, each student in the class follows suit. Some teachers prefer another type of noise maker, ranging from chimes to silly noises. Any strategy can be the one that takes an incredibly short amount of time to get everyone's attention, especially if there is a consistent, appropriate response when students take too long. Whatever strategy you choose, one key will be to teach and practice the strategy with the students before expecting them to automatically use it. E

Corah's picture

I usually say 'Eyes up here, please' and then count down on my fingers from 5. Also if you can lower your voice so that in order to hear you they have to be quiet. Experiment at the beginning of the year, but once you find something that works be consistent.

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