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How to Grab Children's Attention in a Classroom?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Grabbing your new class’ attention is one of the first (and probably one of the most important) routines you will want to establish at the start of the new school year. I mean, how else are you going to be able to teach them all this fantastic stuff you have planned if they aren’t going to listen to you?! You can read more about how to manage other classroom routines in my blog post: How Do You Manage Classroom Routines?

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In this blog post, I talk about different tips you could try out to capture your student’s attention. I also talk a lot about attention getters (or grabbers) and why they are important as well as how to teach them to your class so they stick! Make sure to check out the list of fun attention getters at the end of this blog post!

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Tips for capturing children’s attention in class

At times it can be quite tricky to grab the attention of individual children, groups of children, or the entire class in a busy classroom environment. Below are some tips to help capture your kids’ attention no matter the situation.

Say my name!

If you are trying to gain the attention of one particular student in your class, make sure to say their name. This will mean they will know quite clearly that you are talking to them and will allow you to have their attention before speaking to them.

Get down to their level

If you are trying to capture the attention of a child across a busy classroom, the likeliness they will hear you clearly if you just shout across the room is very low. Instead, walk over to your student and get down to their eye level before speaking. Don’t be afraid to ask your student to look at you to ensure they are ready to listen, especially if they are totally absorbed in what they are doing because of course, they will be loving all the awesome activities you will be giving them!

Be fun and welcoming

When capturing your children’s attention ensure you are welcoming and fun! This will ensure they will want to listen to what you have to say and will be excited when you speak to them. You can do this through warm and friendly body language and facial expressions such as smiling and making good eye contact. Introducing attention getters to your class is a great way to make things fun! We are going to look more at those later!

Keep things brief!

When you have your class’s attention and are giving instructions, explaining an activity, or even reading a story make sure and be aware of how long your kids can actually sit and listen for. Every class is different but usually, children can only sit for a few minutes before getting ants in their pants, especially young children! Before your classroom looks like a zoo for worms make sure to keep your instructions short and clear. By keeping things brief your students are more likely to hear and be able to follow your instructions correctly.

Have high expectations

When waiting for your class’s attention try and be patient and wait for EVERYONE to be listening. It can be so tempting to begin speaking when most of your kids are listening but trust me it is so worth being very picky with this! If you begin giving instructions with a few kids still mumbling or chatting you run the risk of the unsettled children distracting the settled ones which you definitely do not want. A great way to try and gain your unsettled students’ attention is to praise the children that are showing they are ready to listen. This will reinforce a more positive expectation of everyone.

Why are attention getters important in a classroom?

Attention getters are important in the classroom as it allows the teacher to give instructions or messages to the class. It reduces wasted learning time as children know exactly what is expected of them and makes transitions between different activities easier.

What are attention getters for kids?

Now we are going to look a little bit closer at ways to grab your student’s attention. So, what are attention-getters? Simply put, attention getters (or grabbers) can be verbal, auditory, or visual cues that capture children’s attention so the teacher (you) can give them an instruction or deliver a message.

Attention grabbers can be non-verbal. This means you may do a certain movement or gesture or even show an image on your interactive whiteboard which signifies to your class that you would like them to stop and listen. If your attention-getter is calm and quiet this will encourage your children to be calm and quiet too which is exactly what you want when you are expecting them to listen.

Call and response attention getters are extremely popular and are a great way to add a bit of fun into your classroom! In this type of attention getter, the teacher calls out a short phrase and the children respond with a different short phrase. You can make this even more fun by adding in sound effects or funny voices. Have a look below for some examples of call and response attention grabbers!

Using body movement is another effective way of capturing your students’ attention. Give your class simple instructions such as “touch your head” or “cross your arms”. You can even turn this into a game of “Simon Says”, this will really engage your class as they will need to listen carefully, so they don’t get caught out! After you have given a few instructions, you can start to quieten your voice. This will mean your students will need to be straining a bit to hear you, but it also means they will hopefully be calm and listening VERY intently to you.

Making use of technology is another great method of grabbing your kids’ attention in class. If you are lucky enough to have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom you can display a countdown timer or even play a song that signals your kids will need to stop and listen.

How do you teach attention getters to kids?

You will need to spend some time actually teaching attention grabbers to your class. Once you have explained what is expected when they see or hear the attention grabber, make sure and spend time practising it with your kids. A great way to introduce new attention-grabbing methods is to make it a fun challenge. You could give the kids the challenge that whenever they hear throughout the day a certain song, you doing a certain gesture, etc, they have to respond in the correct way. Make sure and keep your kids on their toes by perhaps doing this at unexpected times, not just when you want them to stop and listen.

Fun attention getters for kids

Below are some examples of fun call and response attention getters. In these examples, the teacher says the first part of the phrase and the children respond with the second.

  • Hocus Pocus….Everybody focus!

  • Macaroni Cheese…Everybody freeze!

  • Freeze! Everybody clap your hands….7 claps

  • Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?...SpongeBob Square Pants!

  • 1, 2, 3 eyes on me…1, 2 eyes on you

  • Shark bait…Ooh ha ha!

  • Hands on top (put hands on your head)…Everybody stop

  • Here’s a rhyme…it’s learning time

  • Zip it, lock it…put it in your pocket

  • Holy moly…Guacamole

Overall, the ability to capture your class’s attention is one of the first things you should introduce at the beginning of the school year. For more tips related to starting school, check out my blog post: First Day of School Tips for Teachers. By keeping in mind the 5 tips I mentioned above you should be able to grab the attention of your kids no matter what the situation. Remember to keep things fun and don’t be afraid to change things up if it is not working. Every class is different and what works for one may not work for another. For more on other things you should focus on teaching during the first week of school, you can read my blog post: What to Teach the First Week of School?

What are some of your top attention-grabbing tips? I would love to hear in the comments below. Or head over to my Facebook page or Instagram to share your tips with me there!

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