Gaining Attention

Age Range: 5 - 11
By: Emily Jackman

When working in a reception class during my final teaching practice I tried really hard to develop strategies for regaining the children's attention whilst on the carpet.

The strategy that I found most useful was: Are you listening - this game is a little bit like simon says but I'd start by saying, "if you are listening put your hands on your lap" after about five instructions all the children would be joining in and focusing their attention towards myself. this methos does take a few moments to work but is effective when it does.

Another useful tip that I used whilst teaching PE was to use a musical instrument e.g. a jingle bell to get the children to stop. This saves your voice and provides an effective method of stopping the children.

Here's another idea from Candy Sugiyama ...

When I need to get the attention of my students, I never raise my voice. Instead, I clap out a rhythm, and the students repeat the rhythm. That is their signal to stop whatever they are doing and focus on what I have to say.

Another idea from Sonja Cheal...

A really good way to get the attention of the class without losing your voice is to stand at the front of the class with one hand in the air. Then make a long, continuous 'shhhhh' gradually getting quieter as more and more children realise you require their attention. I have found this to be particularly effective as it gives children those few extra seconds to finish their sentences and snippets of conversations that really just can't wait!

More ideas from a visitor...

When I need the attention of the students in the class I use different technique but these two are more effective:

(1) I used to gossip with one or two students and in seconds all students move their attention towards me and the students whom I gossip to join or know the matter. Then I take the advantage of this and come to my actual point.

(2) When the attention of students is needed, I mostly come to the front of the class and look at the students in a strange way and show through facial expression that I am about to say something valuable or observing the class to do different. Resulting, I get the attention of the students.

Another idea from a visitor...

Here is a simple yet effective idea for gaining the attention of a "highly spirited" class: hit a tambourine 3 times (the children have been instructed that this means stop and so all say the word "stop"), shake it for a few seconds (the children will have been instructed that this means look and so all look at you and point to their eyes), then fold your arms (which means that the children should copy and be ready to listen). I have been using this with 6 year olds since the start of term and it really seems to work.

A suggestion from Riaz...

This works well for younger children. If I need their attention I say 1,2,3,4,5 and they reply - once I caught a fish alive etc.

A visitor explained that...

I say "1-2-3 eyes on me" to get attention. Also when I pre-teach directions for centers or assignments, I say "Thumbs up if you understand, thumbs down if you don't". Then I let the children with thumbs down ask questions for clarity!

Danny's suggestion...

In class when I want the children's attention, I clap my hands four times and put my hands in the air. All of the chilren do the same. Works a charm for my class!

Lisa has contributed an idea...

While i was on teaching practice the teacher would call "pause" and the children would have to hold clenched fists in the air and look at the teacher (like holding up paws hence the action and word). The first child to do this got a T-point; this worked really well in the year 3/4 class and because the children had both hands in the air they cannot play with things on the desk.

Jane Clockwind suggests...

At our school, every class decides beforehand on a 'stop-word', which could be a single word or short phrase related to the topic. i stand up, clap twice, call the word, and wait as the pupils fall silent. i also give points to those who stop and look.

Doulla Kleanthous contributed this idea...

Great ideas! Also use a tambourine - I shake it a few times and the children stretch their arms and hands out in the air 'touching the ceiling'!

Amanda Auty has shared the following...

In order to gain attention of class, while working on supply, I instruct them at the begining of the lesson as to what I expect so that once I do the action they are aware of what to do. I will stand at the front of the class and hold up both hands with ten fingers outstretched. I then begin to countdown fron ten WITHOUT using my voice. the children then know that when I reach the final finger I expect all children to be looking at me with nothing in their hands and not talking to anyone else. I do not start to speak until this happens. If anyone breaks this rule I will stop talking until they have finished the off task behaviour. If, during the countdown, they are not aware I may sound out a warning such as "I am getting a little worried since I have reached finger two and EVERYONE should be getting ready.

Rhonda May has suggested this idea for younger children...

I use this for the 2 year olds at our daycare. When trying to get their attention, I ask "Where is my nose?" Since this age is learning all their body parts it gets their focus on my face and when they put their finger on their nose to copy me, it also puts their hand in front of their mouth and they automatically want to say SHH.

A visitor has suggested using a famous song...

Another technique i have observed that worked really well is to use two lines from the Spice Girl song "Stop Right Now'. The teacher says "Stop Right Now" and the class replies "Thank you very much"orThe teacher says "1, 2, 3, eyes on me" and the students reply "1, 2, eyes on you."

Another visitor explains that...

I say "1, 2, 3, eyes on me" and the children chorus back "1, 2, eyes on you". This works well with young children and it rhymes!

A visitor has shared another idea...

I also sing to my class 'Are you listening?' They then reply in tune, 'Yes we are' with their hands in the air. If some children are still not listening I sing 'Are you sure?' and they reply 'Yes we are'. This works throughout early years and infants.


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it can be hard to get older classes to pay attention. I like to quietly use 'If you can hear my voice clap once,' continuing with the phrase until all are quiet. It really saves your voice. On a good day it only takes 2 claps.



we say "1,2,3 eyes on me" and students respond "4,5,6, our eyes are fixed". Also we use the prompt "ears" and students say "Open ma'am/sir" and "eyes" they respond "watching you", I say "mouths" with the response "zzzzziiiped". You can use them all or just one at a time.



I saw the clap out a rhythm in a school last year, it was used by all classes, and worked great so as i started teaching practice this week with infants class (ireland) 4/5/6 years old, i explained about the rhythm clap thing and they repeat it back , it is Brilliant, doesnt matter what theyre doing, they stop and look up at me (while clapping) when i do it! it works better than the bell the teacher has in the classroom!!



I teach a "spirited" 5th grade class this year. I have used many of these techniques over the years. In our school, we have two signals, a chime and one quiet hand up to signal that an adult needs attention. This year, my class is not responding to either signal, even though most have been in this school since K. They are very chatty and seem to be ignoring the signal, and yes, they most definately see me. What to do?



Michelle,In our class we have teams (usually about 4-5). Teams get points for model behaviour, including paying attention when the teacher is speaking. The first team to show they are paying attention gets two points. Every else gets one point as soon as they are listening and still. In our class teams with the most points at the end of a session get a stamp in their book. They collect stamps to get prizes throughout the year.



. I have found that telling them to take 2 works good. They have two eyes on me, two ears on me, two lips together, two hands on two knees and two legs folded on carpet. They seam to respond well to this.