Posted by: jockmackenzie | September 1, 2009

Classroom Routines – Getting Everyone’s Attention


When I thought of a picture that suited “Getting Everyone’s Attention,” this is one of the first that came to mind.

(I am not aware of the picture’s source so am unable to give credit)

The best idea I ever had for getting an entire class’s attention was to sing the first half of a familiar line in a song OR to call out the first half of a familiar line of poetry. Here’s how it worked for me:

In the case of the poem “Ladies and Gentlemen” (see the blog entries “The First Week of School – Part 1 and Part 2), whenever I needed everyone’s attention, I would call out (in my teacher voice), “Ladies and gentlemen.” Many of the class would respond with the second half of the line, “hobos and tramps.”

I would stand at the front of the class with my expectant look and wait for all and sundre to look to me for whatever instruction was necessary.

The concept works for several reasons:

– with the entire class at work, often with at least a murmur of activity and chatting (undoubtedly about the project at hand) going on, by using my teacher voice to call out the first part of a song or poem, NOT ALL of the class would hear my interruption. But quite a few would. When they gave the oral and choral response, the kids who hadn’t heard my initial call for attention would hear the answering line.

– the next step is one some teachers don’t use effectively. That’s the “waiting with the expectant look” part. Wait time is critical. When the students look to the front, I wait for a several seconds, scan the class to get eye contact, and then deliver my interruption.

– it’s fun and different. For middle school kids, it’s not demeaning. By this I mean that it’s not a repeat of the time worn attention-getting devices used in elementary school. Without listing them, I hope you know the ones I mean (or demean).

– it can be tailored to the age group. When I taught a kindergarten gym class, we agreed that I would call out “Twinkle, Twinkle” and they would respond “Little Star.” We also used “Baa Baa” and they responded “Black Sheep.” (One kindergartener living in the past, called out “Ber Ann” – think about it.)

– it can be varied. There are a million songs and poems. I would discuss some favorites with the class, choose a few to add to the always popular “Ladies and Gentlemen” attention-getter, and then use them.

Several examples of attention-getters were: We will, we will . . . rock you. AND Wild thing . . . you make my heart sing. AND Happy birthday . . . to you. AND some seasonal ones – Here comes Santa Claus . . . Here comes Santa Claus AND I’m dreaming of a . . . white Christmas. The sky’s the limit.

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