For many new teachers, classroom management can be one of the biggest obstacles to achieving success.
Without a toolbox of strategies to get students’ attention, raising your voice may feel like the only option when students are engaged in a loud activity or simply not meeting expectations. 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.
For each of the attention-getters below, it’s important to explicitly teach students what your expectations are for how they should respond. For older students, it will likely take only a few minutes for you to demonstrate the attention-getter and share your expectations—voices are off, eyes are on the board, etc.
7 Effective Attention-Getters
1. The Clap-In (or Snap-In): The clap-in is a classic attention-getter for good reason! While many teachers resort to raising their voices when the classroom gets too loud, clapping provides an equally noticeable but far more positive way to get students’ attention. To use a clap-in, simply pick a pattern to clap and have students repeat it back. As more students join in, the clap gets spread across the room until all students are participating in the clap and ending their conversations.
There are a few ways to make this more interesting for students. One option is starting with a clap and switching to snaps. This requires students to be even quieter to be able to hear the pattern you snap and then repeat it. You can also select a student to lead the clap-in or snap-in to build further investment in the attention-getter. Finally, rather than making up your own pattern, you can work with your students to design a unique clap-in or snap-in pattern for your class.
2. Give Me Five: This is a great option that not only helps bring students’ attention back to you but also provides an opportunity for them to work together to get everyone back on track. For this attention-getter, raise your hand high so that students can see you. As each student sees the signal, they will also raise their hand. This will continue to spread until all students are silently raising their hands and looking to you for further directions.
To make this more exciting, I have timed my students to see how long it takes for everyone to raise their hand and then challenged them to beat their time. This has been a very efficient way to get the attention of all students without even using my voice at all.
3. Class-Wide Countdown: This strategy is similar to Give Me Five, as it has a cascade effect across the classroom when students join in to bring their attention back to the teacher.
To employ this strategy, the teacher begins a countdown, generally from 10, but teachers can make adjustments as needed for their individual groups; and as students hear the countdown, they join in until all students are participating. Once the entire class reaches zero, all students are silent and have their attention back on the teacher.
4. Call-and-Response: Using a call-and-response is another easy way to get students’ attention, as they will have to not only listen to join in but also stop any side conversations in order to provide the accurate response. This attention-getter provides lots of room for creativity that both teachers and students can use to make the calls-and-responses best suited for them.
It’s 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—similar to the Clap/Snap-In.
5. Timer/Song: This strategy uses other sounds rather than a teacher’s voice to get attention and relies on a specific timed activity.
I use this strategy if I have given my students a group or partner task to complete for a specific amount of time. When they start, I begin the timer or song (instrumental works best!), and by the time the timer or song goes off, students are expected to end their conversations and return their attention to me. The timer works best for potentially louder group activities, while the song is a great option for a slightly quieter partner activity.
6. Hit the Lights: This strategy is one I use only when I need student attention immediately back up front on me. Just like the theater signal that a performance is about to begin, a quick flash of the lights can alert students that something is about to happen. I explicitly explain to them that a quick flash of the lights means that they need to turn off their voices and track me.
I often use this strategy if students are working in groups and I only need to remind them of one quick piece of information but plan to let them return to working at their previous noise level.
7. Sound Effects: This strategy can be a more fun way to get student attention but one that must be explicitly taught so that students can be mature and meet expectations when it’s used.
For this strategy, the teacher should identify a sound—I like to use this one—that will quickly get student attention and play the sound when needed. My students know that when they hear the sound, they are expected to be in their seats, silently tracking me for directions.