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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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

When I taught High School, I struggled with that as well. I finally had success when I asked the kids what they preferred. It was different for different groups, but typically they had passionate feelings about the light switch (hated it). I didn't like trying to yell over them- hard on my voice and I felt like it set the wrong tone. We came up with two things pretty regularly. First, when I would go to the front of the room (rather than circulating around) and ask the kid right in front of me to tell the kids next to him that I needed their attention (and so on and so on) and when I turned off the music during work time. Sometimes I would put a sign on the overhead counting down the number of minutes until I needed their attention- that helped as well. I used a timer- a loud one- sometimes too.

Mostly, though, I tried to make sure that I didn't need to interrupt them too often.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Like Shelagh, I'm a big fan of "If you hear my voice clap once, etc." It works well for me, and is just different enough from what most of our teachers do (clap patterns) that it can gather together a small group or the entire school lining up at the beginning of the day very quickly.

Martin Richards's picture
Martin Richards
I train educators to use a coaching approach in their teaching practice

All the suggestions here have merit.

I would like to ask Serena Murillo what SHE now feels is right for her, in her situation as she sees it now, paying attention to what she wants to create with her students, and respecting the environment that the school and other teachers have already created.

And, I would encourage Serena to continue the search for what works with the next class, starting by noticing what's different about the new class and adapting to it intuitively.

Emily Miller's picture
Emily Miller
Second Grade Teacher

This is my first year as a full time teacher. I have been a substitute within my district for four years. I have had many opportunities to see what works and what doesn't work. I use many different attention grabbers in my classroom however, there is one that my students just love (and so do I). I will say "Red Robin" and the students respond with "Yum". I put my own little twist on this though, however long I hold my hand in the air is how long they have to hold the "Yum." This is a quick and fun way to get their attention.

Kelsey Nelson's picture
Kelsey Nelson
First Grade teacher

Hi Serena,
I am also a student teacher and sometimes feel uncomfortable doing certain attention grabbers with students. One attention grabber that I find to be successful, and is used across all grade levels at my school, is when the teacher says "1,2,3, eyes on me" and the students respond with "1, 2, eyes on you". At first I thought this might only be applicable to primary grades, but I have found this works in most situations, and I have even heard 4th and 5th grade teachers use it with their students. Hope this helps!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Hello all,

Thank you to everyone who participated in this discussion. We've distilled the responses down to 25 general strategies and assembled them into a single document.

We wanted to give credit where it was due, so each featured strategy includes a quotation from the comment it came from and attribution to the educator who made it.

You can find the presentation here:

Check it out!

CM McVey's picture
CM McVey
5th grade

In my school we teach the students to reply "yes, yes" when we say "class, class" we change it up by saying it fast, slow or three times, sometimes we say classity, classity, and they reply yesity, yesity. But we have also changed it for holidays - "Santa, Santa" rely "Ho, ho. ho" The bottom line is they know where ever they are, they answer, stop what they are doing and listen. Good Luck!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Thanks for the tip, CM McVey. The whole school uses this strategy? I'm guessing then that it's built into the culture and students come into each grade knowing the procedure. Very cool.

Jill's picture
Assistant Administrator at Georgia Cyber Academy

Grabbing students attention
is something we try to do at the beginning of every lesson. It is probably easier for us in the world of virtual education because we can send students on a web quest or to play an educational game, but it is a great way to give a sneak peek into what they will be learning and it gets the students involved right at the beginning.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

These are all fantastic ideas. For school wide events we use the clap pattern response and because we use it enough we get some very challenging beats going- but the kids get really good at it. I try to vary the claps by using our feet or clapping on our thighs.

But for my classroom I mostly use book titles or famous book lines for a call and response method.

Currently I use Dr. Seuss related call and responses. The students are taught to imitate the way I say it...sometimes loud and proud...sometimes a whisper.

Teacher: One Fish Two Fish....students: Red Fish Blue Fish!

Teacher: The Word of the Lorax....students: seems PERFECTLY CLEAR!

Teacher: I am the Lorax...students: I speak for the trees!

This one is said quickly
Teacher: I say Doctor, you say Seuss.
Teacher: Doctor
Students: Suess
Teacher: Doctor
Students: Suess

Another method I use is I ask "How many fingers do I have?" I hold up 3 fingers. Most students respond 3...I say no silly, I have 10! Then I ask it a little different way "How many fingers am I showing?" I hold 3 up (but am showing 5) Of course I get varied responses. I mix up the language to keep them on their toes. It only takes two times of these sorts of questions to get everyone's it makes them really listen to the words I use in my questions.

CM McVey- our 3-4 teachers uses that "Class" - "Yes" method and it is VERY successful for her as well. She too varies her voice and expects the kids to mimic it.

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