Shhhh…Replace Shushing with Effective Attention Getters!

Replace shushing with effective attention getters

“Shhhhhhhh! Boys and girls (shhhh), today we are going to review how to add with regrouping (shhhh.) We learned this last week (Aiden- shhh!) and I want to review it because some of you seem a little confused (shhhhhhhhhh.)”

Is there a snake in the room? A leaky tire? Or just a room full of chatty children with a frustrated teacher TRYING to teach?

I have a confession to make: I am a shusher. Not only do I “shhhhh” in the classroom, but I “shhhh” in the movie theater, I “shhhh” during meetings with adults, and I “shhhhhh” in situations where shushing really isn’t my responsibility! (Like other people’s children at church. Oh dear.)

This is a bad habit I have worked hard to eliminate in the past few years. However, in my effort to stop my own shushing, I have come to realize how much we teachers shush in general! Sometimes it’s so bad it almost becomes part of a teacher’s sentence structure (like the example above.)

Here is the problem: “Shhhhhh!” doesn’t really work. It certainly doesn’t work when we shush all day long! Children get immune to the shushing. In fact, children grow immune to any attention-getting device that we overuse.

That’s why I collect attention-getting ideas and mix them up throughout the day. The children are quick to learn the different signals, are much more likely to respond with quiet attention, and actually find it fun to “stay on their toes.”

Here are a few of my favorite attention getters!

1- Clap a rhythm. You’ve seen this one before, I’m sure. The teachers claps a simple rhythm and the children echo the clap. It’s a great one to use when you need to be heard over a high noise level. However, it only works if hands are free. For example, if children have goopy hands, you don’t want them clapping! I keep changing the rhythm I clap until all the children are quiet and echoing my claps.

2- Do You Hear? I learned this one from a storyteller and the kids love it. The teacher claps 3 times and then calls “Do you hear?”. The children respond by clapping 3 times and calling, “We hear!” It’s rhythmic, so the claps should be three steady beats and then “Do you hear/ we hear” is said fairly quickly within the final 4th beat. (Ask your music teacher to help you figure this one out if it seems confusing!)

3- If you can hear the sound of my voice… I have been able to quiet a room full of 200+ chatting teachers with this attention getter! The idea is that you start giving commands in a barely raised voice, “If you can hear the sound of my voice, clap your hands once.” Then you clap loudly as if following your own directions. At first only a handful of people will respond. However, the sound of their clap usually gets the attention of others nearby. You go on, “If you can hear the sound of my voice, clap twice.” Now more people will respond. It usually only takes 3 or 4 tries before the whole room is quiet and listening.

With students, I like to mix it up after the first clap or two: if you can hear the sound of my voice flap your arms, do the wave, pat your head, jump 3 times, say “I’m listening!”, etc.

4- Use an auditory signal. My friend and fellow teacher, Jeff Jordan, taught me this trick. He has a whole collection of sound devices he uses to get student attention: bells, drums, shakers, chimes, noisemakers, etc. In his drama class, he has a “sound of the day” that he shares with the children at the beginning of class. It becomes a challenge for them to freeze and get quiet as quickly as possible when they hear the “sound of the day.” (See how he makes it a game?) Try it out! Collect a shelf full of inexpensive instruments and sound effects. Pull one out from time to time and make it the “sound of the day.”

5- Assign a specific signal or sound to a specific subject or time of day. I have a drum that comes out every time I do a movement-based activity with my students. They know that when I hit the drum they have to freeze.  If I were to beat the drum every time I needed their attention all day long, they would quickly learn to ignore the sound. However, the drum is effective because they are listening for it in the context of movement. I have a tambourine for Drama lessons and a slide whistle I use for starting and stopping group discussions. Each of these sounds is fresh and new to the children because they’re not heard all the time. Therefore, they are more effective!

What about you? Do you have any powerful attention-getters that work well with your students? I’d love to add them to my collection! Post them in the comments below.

And let’s all try to stop leaking air! (I mean shushing.) 😉

PS- The writing series is still in the works. I’ve got some great interviews scheduled!

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 photo credit: Rochelle, just rochelle via photopin cc

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