6 Ways to Get Your Classroom’s Attention
Few things can feel as defeating as not being able to get your students’ attention, especially for a new teacher. It should be easy, right? But give your class an absorbing or exciting project, and even the most vocally gifted teacher can struggling to recapture a full their attention when it’s time to shift gears.
Luckily, classroom management is often less about volume and more a matter of technique; choosing the right approach can easily get your students to sit up, quiet down, and give you their full attention as quickly as possible.
The result: less stress, more class time, and greater mutual respect between students and teacher.
Here are a few ideas to get you started!
- Put Students In Charge
Choose one student to keep track of time and issue “5 minute warnings” for everyone, or have a stopwatch at the front of class counting down time left for an activity. This will save your voice and empower your kids one at a time.
You can also up the ante with a consequence for not finishing the activity, as a way of keeping kids focused (and quiet). For example, leftover work must be completed at home and turned in the next day, or the last 5 students finished are in charge of the clean up.
- Do A Call And Response
If you can make paying attention a game, you’ll get much more responsiveness from your students. You can even ask kids to help brainstorm a two part catchphrase or movement. Maybe when you pat your head, students rub their bellies, or if you say “Howdy,” students say “doody.”
- Do Something Surprising
If you normally raise your voice and clap and wave your arms to get everyone’s attention, you may be trying harder than you have to. Dream up something different–maybe standing silently with a hand raised (or with Star Trek fingers!) or doing something silly like the macarena. Students may respond faster to something unusual than they would to your best familiar moves.
- Reward Attentiveness
You’ve heard of “catching” students doing something right (instead of just noticing when they make a mistake)–so try applying that rule of thumb to their efforts at paying attention. You can have a sticker chart for quickly quieting down (and when the class earns a certain number of stars, they get a treat, like a game day). Or, you can simply thank students when they do a good job of responding to a class prompt on the spot. Kids will remember being noticed for doing well!
- Give a Reason for Asking for Quick Responses
Sometimes, getting respect for a class rule or requirement is as simple as explaining its purpose. You can do this with a consequence (teaching students that not paying attention leads to wasted time, which can lead to leftover tasks becoming homework), or by stressing its importance in an emergency situation, like a fire drill.
- Appeal to Other Senses
If you usually use a sound (like a bell) to get kids’ attention, try a visual cue, like waving a flag, or flicking the room lights. Or, appeal to students’ senses of smell with a spritz of room spray in a noticeably scent (like peppermint, lemon, or lavender). You can also try a different type of sound, like a special song, teaching students that they should be quiet by its end.
- Remember to Expect to Get Their Attention
If you project authority, you’ll have a much easier time getting your class to follow instructions! Remember that you’re in charge, and your students will too.
- ASCD The Key to Classroom Management: Research-based suggestions for establishing teacher expectations and goals for students as a means of keeping classes on task.
- American Psychological Association: This article offers “modules” for helping teachers create healthy classroom environments that foster respect and productiveness.
- Edutopia: Classroom Management: Discussions, videos, and blog posts for specific issues like navigating group work or managing large class sizes.