Classroom Management Tip: Getting Your Students’ Attention

Hands up if you see me!

What good is an inservice or professional development if you don’t walk away with something practical that you can bring back to your class immediately? Not a whole lot.

Thankfully, Annette Breaux’s presentation last Thursday was jam-packed with tips that anyone can use. In fact, I tried many of her ideas in my class all day Friday, and there was definitely a different vibe in the room.

Every day this week, I am featuring one of Annette’s classroom management tips and my experiences using them on the first day. I am confident you will take something positive away from at least one of these tips! (And if you do, make sure you let Annette know!)

Today’s tip: Smile and give a hand signal to get the class’ attention.

  • In theory: I have a greater tolerance for chatter than some teachers, sure, but the point is, there are times when efficient acquisition of quiet is needed. On Friday, we practiced a new system in which I would raise my right hand to signal to the students that I needed their attention. I told them that, when they noticed my hand up, they should raise theirs as well. The idea is that others would notice hands going up around them and therefore would raise their hands and give their attention.
  • In practice: As Annette pointed out, the Giants practiced the same plays for the Super Bowl that they practiced in training camp. The point? Procedures need to be practiced often and consistently for them to work. The ragged edges of students initially raising their hands and continuing to leaf through books without giving me their attention gave way to a tighter, faster, more invested experience as we used the signal throughout the day. This week, we will continue to practice.
  • Remember: keep a smile on your face, no matter how long it takes to gain the attention of your students. Don’t let them push your buttons. Also, if certain students are ignoring the signal, ignore them right back. No sense in giving them the satisfaction  of controlling you or the class.

Try it and share with us how it went!

9 responses to “Classroom Management Tip: Getting Your Students’ Attention

  1. My teachers should soooo be reading this!

  2. This doesn’t work for high school students.

    • Having never taught HS, I can’t say with certainty that you’re right or wrong, but I have to imagine it can work. It’s all in the presentation and expectation. I hesitate to ever use the word can’t when talking about students because it implies having given up on them!

    • I have high school students and it worked for mine if used from the get go.

  3. I’ve actually used the technique successfully with elementary, middle, and high school students. As Matt stated, it’s all in the presentation and expectation. Having said that, I should add that I’ve also seen elementary, middle, and high school teachers use it inappropriately and thus unsuccessfully. If students know they push your buttons, and if you show the slightest amount of frustration or aggravation when implementing this, it won’t work. It’s actually difficult to explain the technique without seeing it in person. But it truly does work. So many teachers are amazed when they see it modeled and then go into their classrooms and implement it!

  4. It is all about presentation and expectation most especially with HS kiddos. Smile and wait!

  5. It worked for me with HS by doing the peace sign instead of just a raised hand. They liked that.

  6. Rachael @ the HELD blog

    I work primarily with small people, but I’ve used this idea with older students, even in family/parent assemblies with a large group! I have found it really effective.

  7. Another method of getting attention which has worked wonderfully with my 4th grade ESL class that loves to chat (loudly too) is the game “Beat the Teacher.” You count down from 5 and when you get to 1 it should be silent. If even one student is talking or moving at 1, the teacher gets a point. If they are silent and listening, the class gets a point. At the end of the day, I either take marbles out of our reward jar or add to it depending on who won.

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