The Teacher's Guide to Handling the Attention Getter (page 2)
It is essential to have an attention-getter—or signal—that gets the attention of your students quickly and effectively. Not only does it demonstrate a command of your class and make for smooth transitions between activities, but it is also extremely important in the case of an emergency.
Keep your attention-getter simple, quick, and safe. Make sure that it isn’t disruptive to other classrooms. Teachers use a variety of attention-getters. Choose one or more that you feel comfortable with.
- Transitioning from one subject to the next
- Closing a topic or period
- Preparing for clean-up
- Moving to the next activity
- Focusing on the teacher for directions
- Quieting students for announcements or directions
- Be consistent.
- Be calm and in control: Use a signal once and wait. Never try the signal over and over, because students will not take it seriously.
- Move closer to a student who is not responding to the signal. Proximity can make a big difference in the response you get.
- Remember that you are in charge, and hold your ground when students test you. A strong, silent teacher holding his or her ground can be very intimidating.
- Consider having students help decide on a signal.
- Ask students to list classroom signals that have been used in their other classes.
- Find several classroom signals that work for you, and alternate them if one becomes less effective.
Holding Two Fingers Up in a “Peace Sign”
Nothing is said out loud; two fingers are held up in a V shape, or peace sign. Each student is to hold a hand up as soon as they see this signal, which cues other students who have not yet seen the teacher’s signal. “When hands are up, mouths are shut, and eyes are on teacher.” This is very effective when your class is around other classes: You remain calm and collected, not saying a word, and just wait for all of your students to respond.
- Refocusing students’ attention from group work
- Assembling in the common area
- Quieting students down when entering the classroom
This signal is only used outside. It is a quick but loud way to grab students’ attention.
- Calling students inside when they are outside the building
- Transitioning to another activity when outdoors
Egg Timer, Bell, and Stopwatch
The egg timer, bell, and stopwatch all provide an excellent way to pace your instruction. The bell or ring tone should signal the completion of an activity and a transition to what follows: Stop, straighten up, wait for directions, and/or transition to the next activity.
- Rotating small groups through a series of activities
- Timing assessments
- Transitioning between subjects
- Timing discussions and presentations
The teacher claps a pattern, and the students then repeat the patterned clap to show that they are ready. Students can also help create patterns to be used for a certain period of time. Always practice the patterns so that the response becomes automatic.
- Quieting the class during a busy activity or when it is time to focus
- Refocusing the class after sharing out in groups
Maracas, Tambourines, and Hand Drums
Instruments can be a fun way to call for students’ attention.
- Transitioning to a different activity
- Quieting and calming students
- Signaling clean-up time
- Signaling preparation for going home
- Signaling a specific activity
- Designate students to be signal monitors, cued by the teacher.
- Use different instruments for different subjects or different times of the day.
- Use this tactic if you have one or two difficult students who need an opportunity to be in charge of something. You’ll be surprised at how engaged and on task such students can be when they are given a responsibility such as this.
Turn Lights Off
Turn the lights off, pause, then turn them back on. This is an immediate attention-getter, a signal usually used when all else fails. Reserve this signal for use as the “Ultimate Attention-Getter.”
- Getting attention instantly in a busy classroom
- Signaling clean-up time at the end of the day
Hands on Your Head
The teacher places both hands on his or her head, and the students follow suit. This assures that all activity stops and that attention is on the speaker. This is a common signal for students in kindergarten and grade 1.
- Intercom announcements
- Signaling an emergency
The teacher holds five fingers in the air and counts down silently (or quietly) toward zero: 5 = stop, 4 = tell your neighbor to stop, 3 = look at the teacher, 2 = listen, 1 = wait for a cue to begin the next activity. (Another version of this signal is called “give me five,” where the teacher counts up: 1 = stop, 2 = tell your neighbor to stop, 3 = look at the teacher, 4 = listen, 5 = wait for a cue to begin the next activity.)
- Signaling transitions
- Silently signaling during assemblies
- Signaling on fieldtrips
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