Quiet Signals for Getting Attention and Control of Your Classroom

What do you use to get the attention of your students when they are working? It’s hard for the “teacher look” to work when they are happily working on a group activity or not looking at you and talking as they work. One of the best treats a teacher can do for herself is to teach her class one or two signals for when she wants the attention of her students. You need several signals because if the class is quiet, one signal might work, but if they are noisy or on the playground, you may need a different signal altogether. The other key is that you need to teach the signal just as you would a math problem or a vocabulary word. After you have taught the signal, the students will need time and opportunity to practice it. If their practice is great, tell them so. If it is not, tell them they will need to practice the signal again until they can do it just right and mean it. If you accept less than complete attention, that is just what they will learn to give you. You may need to practice occasionally if they slip.

When deciding on the signal for your class, consider the age, grade, ability level, and maturity of the group. Just because it worked with the same grade level last year does not mean it will work well with this group.

Listed below are some possible signals.

5 thoughts on “Quiet Signals for Getting Attention and Control of Your Classroom”

  1. Jeanette

    All of these are great ideas but they are not working for those kids that keep yelling out rude comments when they should be working. Any ideas on how I can fix that? Parents are much help in this area. Any suggestions will be taken into consideration.

  2. TC Bear Post Author

    Unfortunately, we don’t know how old the students are so some of these may not work as well for all grade levels.

    It sounds like whatever you use, those kids will keep testing the teacher. I would give one warning for the first outburst, and then the second time, some immediate consequence such as staying in during break to make up for lost classroom time. Try having the student work by the teacher’s side. Use a behavior journal that goes back and forth from parent to teacher—have the student write a note to his parent’s notifying them of what his behavior is like each day. Allowing such outbursts just breeds more trouble!

    I’ve heard that some teachers would count backwards from 10 and the kids had to be silent by the time the teacher reached 1. For very young students, using the little songs from the Transitions book work well.

    Let the loudest ones be the ones to help you get the class settled. Without making it a punishment, have one of them come up to the class and help you give the signal.

    Sometimes you have to separate that loud one out from the others and seat them somewhere else.

    Instead of giving attention to the kids who are throwing fits, give it to the kids who are behaving. Kids who are behaving well should be called by name, given a verbal “pat on the back,” and rewarded with a small prize (i.e., sticker or bookmark). A teacher might also want to chart out student success. I know a lot of teachers do this with books, but why not with behavior as well? Once a student reaches 20 star stickers, they can get a grab-bag prize.

  3. TC Bear Post Author

    Another thing I’ve seen work in classrooms is the “Give Me Five” approach. The teacher would have already established the five things they want when they say “Give me five.” These were along the lines of:

    eyes looking forward
    mouth closed
    hands still
    listening to teacher
    sitting down

    There was usually a poster reminding kids, too. Then, the teacher counted DOWN from five rather than UP to five, since if the teacher counted up, kids usually just assumed they would keep counting on and on. Once you get to zero, they know there are no more numbers.

    I used the “shave and a haircut, two bits” clapping signal. I would clap the first part. Then the students had to clap the response, meaning they had to put down what they were doing so their hands were empty to clap. I also expected them to look at me when they clapped. Sometimes I had to do it twice, but by then everyone was silent and looking at me.

    Hope this helps.

  4. moran

    I teach keyboarding, computer applications, and a health class in a middle school and do not encounter a lot of discipline programs. My biggest problem is students wanting to talk when they need to be quiet. One of the best disciplines that works for me is having a student stand in the hall while I am having discussion. This usually takes care of most of the problems. Occasionally (3-4 times a year), I need to call a parent and/or assign a detention. Rarely, do I need to involve the principal.

    The attention getter I use in my classroom is a wand that plays a “magical” tune. I wave it once or twice and pause. The students know to get quiet and it works 99% of the time.

  5. emma

    in my class,there are two or three class-clown which always gives me headache as i try to control them from making jokes out of everything and stop them from disturbing others…i used the silent approach most of the time where i just keep quiet and stare hard at them…however, it takes out almost 20 minutes to keep the class calmed again…how do i overcome this lost of time so that i can continue teaching within the one hour periods?

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