You can be the best teacher in the world, but if you don’t have your students’ attention, it doesn’t really matter. So, how can you fix this? Here are 10 ways to get your students’ attention.
10 Ways to Get Your Students’ Attention
Using an attention-getter in the classroom is most effective when it is taught, modeled, and practiced regularly. Here are some ideas I have used in my own classroom.
For this, raise your hand and say, “Give me 5…4…3…2…1”. As you countdown, students focus on five things:
- eyes on the speaker
- quiet mouth
- listening ears
- hands free of objects
- body under control
Clap Your Hands
This is a great attention getter to use when you are losing your voice. Simply clap out a pattern with your hands. Students immediately repeat the pattern back. This can be done 1, 2, or 3 times (or as many as it takes until all students are focused and on-track).
Change Your Voice Level
When students are all talking, the noise level increases quickly. Often, the first thought is to speak louder so you can be heard over the rest of the noise. However, using a whisper can be just as effective. Students begin to quiet down out of curiosity.
Choosing a designated speaking spot in the classroom can be a great visual. When students see the teacher move to this spot, they know it’s time to settle down and start listening.
Call and Response
Similar to the clapping pattern, using a call and response or a special chant can be an effective attention getter. There are so many you can use, but here are a few examples:
- T: Hey, Hey! S: What do you say?
- T: 1,2 S: Eyes on you!
- T: Ready, Set S: You bet!
- T: Hocus, Pocus S: Everybody focus!
Use a Special Sound
To help save your voice, having a special sound can get your students’ attention very quickly. You can use a bell, chime, wireless doorbell, or another small instrument or noisemaker.
Use a Timer
Using a timer takes the focus off you, yet still holds students accountable. Start with a larger amount of time (i.e. 10 seconds). Let students know you are starting the timer (You have 10 seconds to…) . Let the time run down to zero, only stopping the timer if students are silent before it goes off. If students beat the timer, reduce the amount of time the next time you use it. You can also tie this in to a classroom goal. For every time students beat the timer, they can fill in a box or icon on their goals chart. When the chart is complete, celebrate that success before starting a new goal.
Focus on the Positive
This works really well with younger students. If you’ve asked your students to do something and the majority aren’t on track, start praising and thanking those who are ready. The rest will quickly join in. For example:
- I see that Javier is sitting quietly, ready to learn.
- Kalani, thank you for coming to the carpet quickly, quietly, and safely.
- Wow! Did you see the way Javonn immediately stopped what he was doing to listen to directions?
If you have only one or two students who aren’t paying attention, start moving closer to those individuals. When you stand closer to these students, they are more likely to stop what they were doing and start paying attention.
Flick the Lights
This was always my last resort option and used during activities where a lot of talking and movement was needed. When your other attention-getting signals haven’t worked, walk to the light switch and begin flipping the switches down one at a time. Students will quickly notice the change and stop what they were doing.
Keep in mind that no matter what you choose to get your students’ attention, you need to teach it, model it, and practice it over and over again to make it effective. I suggest having a few attention-getters that you use regularly for different scenarios that might happen in the classroom. You might need to experiment with several different options to determine which work best with your current group of students and your own teaching style.
Once you have your students’ attention, it’s also important to find ways to keep it. Make sure you:
- build relationships
- establish clear routines and procedures
- plan lessons carefully
- choose activities at the appropriate level
- build in movement and brain breaks
- keep the content relevant
- keep them engaged
Looking for more teacher tips? Try these:
- Classroom Management Tips
- Ways to Encourage Kindness in the Classroom
- 3 Ways to Foster Gratitude in the Classroom