Helping all children become happy learners

Gaining Attention

Introduction

Gaining the attention of the class is a task that teachers have to do countless times. At times it is effortless to achieve whilst on other occasions it can be a challenging and draining experience. Many factors influence this including, for example, the motivation and learning behaviour of the students and the nature of the task engaged with. However, it also influenced greatly by how 'drilled' the students are; in being brought to attention by the teacher. Having clear rules and expectations about how you want students to show good listening behaviour also needs to include the transition from what ever students were doing to silent and engaged attention. 

These rules about gaining attention require establishing at the start of each academic year so that students learn what is expected of them. It should never be assumed that this knowledge and understanding is inherited from previous teachers. Each teacher has their own style and approach. Always invest time to explain and model attention cues that you intend to use and your reasonable expectations of how quickly the students to respond. Revisit this explicitly as necessary.

Understanding that Shifting attention takes time.

It is worth remembering, particularly when we are getting frustrated with a class, that gaining attention can take time. We should not be surprised when children don't pick up on cues to gain their attention. Just think about how long it can take to gain the attention of a group of adults who are chatting. Remember the occasions when you have been busy in a conversation or absorbed in an activity and how it took you time to shift your attention and realise that someone was attempting to address the room. Also remember how embarrassing it can feel when you finally realise that the rest of the room has gone quiet and they've been waiting for you. It is the same for children. For adults working with children we need to stay relaxed, positive and have a degree of empathy for those who take longer to attend. However, using a range of cues to gain attention and reinforcing listening expectations can make a positive difference.

Attention Cues

Silent Cues

Have a non-verbal signal such as raising your arm and or placing a finger on the lip with younger students. Simply standing at the front of the class facing students can be all the prompt required if this is what you have taught them to respond to. These can work very well even when the class is noisy but can take quite a few seconds to work. Helps to avoid raising your voice.

Clapping Cues

The adult claps and the children are taught that they must respond by repeating the clap rhythm. It can be any clap pattern as long it is consistent for your class. This can work quite quickly. 

Musical Cues

This can be using a whistle when outside or a rainmaker, little bell or tambourine when in the classroom. Some early primary practioners use simple songs and chants that are then repeated to gain attention.

Reward Cues

As the class or group become focussed use reward cues to speed up the rest. Actively praise or give out team points to children who are ready. Use proximity praise to target children who are not ready by praising and rewarding those closest to them.

Naming Cues

Finally, use naming cues such as "Stephen, we are about to start now, thanks". Avoid blaming the child, or giving the impression that they have been naughty or are in the wrong. The aim is to remind not reprimand.

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listening and gaining attention Resources


Carpet Time Song

Carpet Time Song

A simple chant to support transition of younger primary children to the carpet. This song acts as a cue for gaining attention and listening behaviour.

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Give Me Five

Give Me Five

A poster to reinforce five rules for listening. Once actively taught the adult can use verbal prompts such "Give Me Five" or "Have I got all five?" to get class or group to be ready. Model counting out each statement using fingers and thumb of one hand.

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Listening Song

Carpet Time Song

A simple chant suitable for pre-school and lower primary children. This song acts as a cue for gaining attention and listening behaviour.

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My Listening Checklist

My Listening Checklist

A checklist of good listening rules.

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