Interruptions to lessons occur all day long in the classroom. Announcements over the loudspeaker or messengers from the office or other teachers. Chorus groups of about 5 children that leave the room during a social studies lesson or members of the band who leave the room at different times because they are grouped for lessons according to types of instruments they play. Then there are fire drills, Picture Day, a bee flies in the room, a child has no writing implement, the list is endless. You could be in the midst of a fabulous lesson, but any of the above mentioned distractions will disrupt the attention of your students. Sometimes you can be in the middle of a lesson and an interesting question from a student promotes class discussions that get off the main idea of the original concept. This is when the teacher has to refocus and get the children back on track. The trick is… how do you regain their attention and get back on task? This requires a repertoire of strategies to get the whole class’ attention again. Twenty years of experience has taught me what does and doesn’t work Here are the strategies:
Methods that get your student’s attention:
1. Keep a bell in the classroom and tell the children that when they hear the bell,
they need to be quiet and listen. Sometimes you can use a bell during reading
groups when the voice level of some groups gets too high.You ring the bell and
voices should get low. Anyone ignoring your bell should be sent to your “time out”
spot where they serve to be an example for others.
2. Raise your hand high into the air. Without speaking, each child raises their hand
when they see your hand raised. They may give hand signals, but no shushing or
calling out once their hand is raised. You will soon have the attention of the
whole class. Before utilizing this strategy, children need to be told the rules.
3. When you want the attention of the class, say, in a normal tone of voice,
“If you hear my voice, clap once”. (a few people will be ready) Next, say,
“If you hear my voice, clap 2 times.”.(you will have about half the class)
Finally, say, “If you hear my voice, clap 3 times (everyone should be quiet now) .
This works beautifully and if you are being observed, it is very impressive.!
4. Turn off the lights. The students need to be directed to this technique by
telling them that when the lights go out, voices are out.
5. There is another technique that emulates baseball with regard to three strikes and your
out. It focuses on individuals. If Pedro is talking at an inappropriate time, I just
say, “Pedro, strike one”. If Pedro begins to sass me by saying the infamous, “What did
I do?”, I immediately reply,”Strike two”. Usually, they pout , but straighten out. Prior
to this strategy, the children need to be advised as to the consequences of getting to
strike three. My students were to;d that parents will be called, and any parent who
cannot be reached will receive a letter in the mail. Whatever your consequence is, you must
follow through on this to maintain an orderly learning environment.
6. Everybody freeze! The children love this strategy because they have to freeze into
whatever position they were in while closing mouths!
Methods that do not work:
1. Screaming at the children only hurts your throat (we do tend to talk a lot) and
the yelling itself frazzles ones nerves. Besides, when you scream, the students
tend to talk even louder.
2. Shushing is when everyone in the class is saying sh… sh… sh… Now you have
to get the attention of all the shushers!
3. Staring at the class with a scowl on your face as you wait for them to get quiet
is a concern. The problem is that one could possibly wait all day! And, I heard
that the scowl on your face can cause premature wrinkles !
Utilization of these methods as well as established rituals and routines will help set up an orderly and functional classroom. You will have a lot of success with the afore mentioned strategies. Good luck and have fun with them.