Now, lets get to the attention
getters. Below I discuss five categories
attention getters: (1) Questions, (2) Music, (3) Drama, (4) Posters, and (5) Rewards.
An attention getter one of my professors modeled for us is saying "If you hear me..." statements. Some examples are: "If you hear me touch your nose." "If you hear me blink your eyes." "If you hear me wiggle your fingers." "If you hear me wiggle your nose." "If you hear me fold your arms." "If you hear me pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time."
You should probably vary the directions so that the children will be caught by surprise. Catching people by surprise is an age-old attention getter.
There are other attention getters. Similes are useful. Say, "I am as quiet as a ..." The class will answer, "Mouse!"
The game "Hangman", using
an appropriate word like "Quiet", is another
attention getter. A nice variety of hangman is to draw a part of
a flower on the board each time the correct letter is guessed. If
the word is "quiet", draw the center for the
flower and a petal for each of the other letters. Write a sentence
on the board, leaving out a word..."Could we all
please be..." An unusual attention getter is placing
a note under one of the student's chairs. The note could be in the
form of a question, like "How can we hear the principal?"
There are musical attention getters. Toot on a toy horn. Squeeze a bicycle horn. Play a harmonica. Ring a cow bell. Bang on a Chinese gong. Crash some cymbals. I remember one of my grade school teachers played three chords on the piano. Sing a song the class knows and ask them to join in one-by-one. Sing a song that requires a physical response like "Do as I'm
Doing" or "If you're happy and you know it...(tell them what to do)".
The use of drama is another attention getter. Talk like a naval commander: "Now hear this! Now hear this! Quiet! Quiet!" Speak like an announcer: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that we have reached the time to be very, very, very, very, very QUIET!" Speak like a robot. Try whispering. My mother used to whisper when she wanted the attention of her seventh grade class. I don't know if that would work on today's children. An attention getter similar to whispering, but more dramatic, is the penny drop. This idea came directly from the religious web site. Tie a penny onto a handkerchief. Tell the class that "Its time to hear the penny drop." Tell them to close their eyes so they can hear better. Drop the penny on your desk. According to the web site, the children will be intrigued by the idea, and the room will become silent. Pretending you are getting a phone call from a famous person is a good attention getter. I used to get my son Jake to brush his teeth by pretending to receive a phone call from Lawrence of Arabia or one of Jake's other heroes. I would say, "Rrrrring, Rrrrring. Hello. This is T. E. Lawrence. Jake, when I was on the desert, I always brushed my teeth with palm leaves after eating my meal of one date. So Jake, how about you?" My son would smile, half-believing the ploy, and would answer the hero back with some wisecrack, but, nevertheless, he would brush his teeth. Puppets are another theatrical attention getter. When my son was little, he would listen to me if I were using a puppet to do my bidding. If you are having trouble making holding up two fingers work, try a more dramatic signal that the students can copy, like waving your arms in the air. Wave signal flags. Use sign language. Tricks with the lights may work. Try turning the lights on and off for a dramatic strobe-light effect.
Cut out a picture of a cartoon character, like Garfield, or a pop star like, Madonna, and blow it up at the xerox store. You can blow up a picture to 11 x 17 inches. Then paste the picture onto a poster board, draw a balloon, and write in the balloon, "Hush now!", or "Quiet Time" or "Shhhhhhhhhh". In my adult education class, I have a poster that says, "Please help keep this classroom is a quiet sanctuary for learning."
Giving rewards is an attention getter. Give recognition to the children who are listening by putting a check by their names on the board. As you put a check by the names, say: "Shelia, I see you are listening." or "Josh has his listening face on." or "Amanda, I see that you are ready to hear the announcements." or "Someone in this room who is wearing a blue sweater is listening." Recognition may be reward enough, or you may want to give tangible rewards, such as a sticker, a pencil, or a thank you note. The privilege of doing something in the class, like being the line-leader is also an appropriate reward. To help the children who are still not paying attention, even after you have jumped through flaming hoops, circulate throughout the room, gently laying your hand on the top of the head or shoulder of each inattentive child. Another technique is to wait quietly while establishing eye contact with a child who is still not paying attention. You could also whisper in an offending child's ear. You could hand an inattentive child a note that says, "Quiet time!"
I have enjoyed putting this reply together. I hope you have enjoyed
reading it. I have discussed forming solidarity with your students
by showing an interest in each and every one of them. I have discussed
attention getters like asking questions, using musical cues and games,
engaging in dramatic play, holding up posters, and giving rewards.
Times have changed so much
since I was a little girl. When I was in the third grade, I would sit there, quiet as a .... ? You guessed it: a mouse! I don't recall if I paid attention or not, but I always looked like I was. My teachers had it pretty easy, but then again, they missed the exciting challenge of searching the Internet and wracking their brains to come up with creative attention getters. If any of the ideas I have passed on to you are useful, please let Dr. Mac know.
Linda Musial, a fellow teacher.
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