Children get sidetracked. They are curious by nature and simply drift to something that attracts their attention. They can lose focus and suddenly it seems like the teacher has lost the entire class to different things. Even the very best and most experienced early education teachers have problems keeping the kids’ attention pointed in the right direction.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the movie “Mary Poppins” is aware that having a magical bag full of tricks can be very helpful. The goal here is to fill that bag so you, as the teacher, can pull out one as needed.
This begins quietly, as the the teacher begins alone. As the students notice what others are doing, then they join in. After the enter class is participating the teacher calls the student’s name. When their name is called they put their hands on their head. It ends when the romp has been completed and everyone is quiet with their hands on their head. (If names take too long pick a color. “Everyone who is wearing blue.”)
The romp is a simple stomp, stomp, clap. One of things that makes any of these tricks in the bag work is that they are fun and not directly related to discipline and behavior every time they are used.
Do it outside. Do it in the halls. Have a visitor come and watch. Praise is always given when the romp has been completed.
A quick flip of the switch can get a child’s attention. You have even set up your own code. If the lights are turned off completely, everyone returns to their seat and is quiet. If the light is just flipped off and on everyone gets in line. The actual code really doesn’t matter. It is an easy visual clue for the students to recognize.
Freeze and melt
It is best to introduce this attention grabber with a science project. Kids love science projects. Work together to make some colored ice cubes. Get them put in the freezer and talk about what is happening.
Then explain that you made some ahead of time and pull out a few. Put them in a pie tin and have the children check on them throughout the day as they melt. They will see them thaw into a puddle. In the freeze-thaw game the teacher says freeze and everyone does, Then come the commands. Here are some to choose from.
“Class, melt where you are.”
“Boys, melt in your seats.”
“If you have brown eyes melt over at the circle.”
Take the ice cubes that the student made outside the next day during outdoor time and have them see what happens to them. Have some extras on hand at all times, because with different weather comes different experiences.
As you can clearly see, almost anything can be used to gather attention. Music being played to signal the next activity can be very useful. Power Point presentations with pictures can change things up. It does not need to be complicated to be effective and enjoyable for teachers and students alike. So put on your ruby red shoes. Click your heels and bring them back to you.