Friday, April 30, 2010

Capturing the Class' Attention: Signals for the Elementary Years

Recently, I found myself caught off guard in another teacher's classroom without a signal that would be appropriate for her group of students.  After sweating it out for a few seconds, I remembered a signal that was used at a recent training I attended.  "If you hear me, clap once." (Clap.)  "If you hear me, clap twice."  (Clap, clap.)  The signals I use with own students were developmentally too young for her group. This led me to investigate different ways to get a whole class' attention. 

Here is a list of signals I use and some that I have learned from other teachers:
  • Clap a rhythm and the students repeat it back
  • "If you hear me clap once." (Students clap once.)  "If you hear me clap twice" (Students clap twice.)  "If you hear me clap three times."  (Students cap three times.)
  • "Give me a clap."  (clap clap)  "Give me a snap." (snap snap)
  • Use a hand signal such as holding up a hand and saying "Give me five."  Each finger represents one of the following expectations which should be taught explicitly to students.

                         1. Eyes on the speaker
                         2. Quiet
                         3. Be still
                         4. Hands free
                         5. Listen

    I recommend that any teacher who uses this signal with students with developmental delays, speech and language needs, or English language learners also uses a poster to visually remind students of the expectations when the "Give me five" signal is given.  The "Give me five" signal is from The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong.  
  • Teacher chants, "One, two, three.  Look at me."  Students respond, "One, two eyes on you."
  • Sound a bell, chime, triangle, or other musical instrument.
  • Teacher raises her hand, then the students raise their hands.
  • Teacher says, "Hocus, pocus" and students continue, "Let's all focus."
  • Sing "The Echo Song" to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?" 
                         Be my echo (Be my echo)
                         Listen up (Listen up)
                         Sitting in our chairs (Sitting in our chairs)
                         Voices (voices off)
  • Allow your class to decide on a silly code word or phrase, to be their signal for attention and quiet.  Some examples include:  macaroni and cheese, green eggs and ham, we eat worms.  
Before you use a signal in the classroom, be sure to explain, model, and practice appropriate responses to the signal with your students.  Never expect students to know how to respond to a signal if you have not explicitly taught them that, "When I [turn out the lights], I expect you to [have your voice off and freeze where you are]."

Do you have a signal you would like to share?  Inform the readers at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings by sending a comment.