6 Ways to Get (and Keep) Students’ Attention
Whether you teach kindergartners or college kids, regaining control of a noisy or distracted classroom can be challenging. We asked our Teach100 Mentors how they capture students’ attention.
What is your favorite method, tool or strategy for getting your classroom’s attention?
- Use a special sound.
“Chimes. It is a pleasant, attractive sound that is not aggressive.” – Mary Tedrow, Walking to School
“I use a chime (Responsive Classroom) or a rhythmic clap. Both methods work best for me because they are auditory. The kids hear it and respond by putting their hands in the air and getting quiet. When I clap, they repeat the clap back to me and stop talking." – Lisa Mims, Diary of a Public School Teacher
- Use total silence.
“I remain absolutely silent.” – The ESOL Ninja
“I use the hand up or just sit quietly until they notice that I am not speaking. I teach fifth grade, and once they notice that I am not speaking but am waiting, they usually get very quiet.” – Jeff Bird, Rasmussen College School of Education
- Turn it into a game.
“If you are listening to me ... rub your nose ... pat your tummy ... fold your arms. Remember to thank and make eye contact with every child who complies so that good behavior gets good attention from me, the teacher.” – Juliet Robertson, I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here
“I use a bunch of things, and it depends on what I am teaching. I sometimes use verbal cues with a prompt. For example, clap once if you can hear me, clap twice if you can hear me. No shushing.” – Tony Tepedino, TepTech
- Do something unexpected.
“I’m all about doing something silly or unexpected — saying something that catches them off guard or just standing silent until they recognize it’s time to move on. I teach 12th grade, and there is a lot of respect between students and myself, so there is never any shouting.” – Starr Sackstein
“The use of an interactive warm up or bell ringer notebook has revitalized and restructured the way I begin my class each day. As students enter the room, they begin the warm up activity. All students are engaged and busy as I take roll, pass out papers, etc. The first 5–7 minutes of my class are no longer chaotic but productive. I love that this provides great review and reinforcement of concepts, and retention of knowledge has greatly increased.” – Amy Brown, Science Stuff
- Set the bar higher.
“Gaining student respect over time and keeping a balance between being friendly and high behavioral expectations. Letting students know when they are not meeting expectations and have crossed the line between acceptable and unacceptable.” – Ross Parker
“I try to avoid giving too much homework (other than chunking long-term projects), but if we don’t finish something in class because students were goofing off, then they may have to finish at home. Knowing that, I use http://www.online-stopwatch.com/ a lot. I project it to the whiteboard or the TV screen and let students know how much time they have left. Once they realize they are wasting their time and will have more to do at home, they usually shape up rather quickly.” – Carissa Peck, MELTing Activities, Lessons, and Ideas
“Waiting for and insisting on silence and pens down when giving instructions. Relationships of mutual respect.” – Rachel Jones, Create, Innovate, Explore
- Structure classes in a way that rewards attention.
“In higher education I don’t spend a lot of time on ‘discipline,’ but I prefer to encourage students to be present or pay attention by opening and closing story loops. Before a break or at the end of class, I might tell part of a story and finish it when students are supposed to be back in class. If they’re engaged in the story, it brings them right back into the state of mind to continue with our lessons.” – Brent Warner, EdTech.tv
“Ask challenging/controversial/topical questions. This works to keep kids engaged and interested. And it never hurts to have them involved and thinking in class. That and Classcraft — the best thing to hit education since the iPad ... shhhhh, don’t tell anyone else!” – Sean Hampton-Cole, Ideas Out There