Do you turn off the lights to let children know it is time to change activities? Perhaps you all sing a clean-up song together. There are different ways we can get the attention of children. But the key to this is to have a “tool bag” of strategies. This is helpful as sometimes one strategy loses its effectiveness. Additionally, we sometimes give a direction and expect it will be immediately followed. Teachers (and their students) benefit when there are a variety of “attention getting” approaches from which to choose.
We believe it is important to make school settings age-appropriate as we want to set the stage for the idea that learning can and should be fun and enjoyable. This is why we encourage teachers to avoid negative comments and to highlight the positive. Even simple statements such as, “I like how Bennett is sitting and looking at me. He is ready to listen,” can be essential.
Notice that not only have you highlighted the positive but you have used the child’s name in a positive way. This contrasts to saying something like, “Bennett you need to sit down.” When children hear their names it is reinforcing, even in a negative context. This means some children may ignore you, just to hear their names! We want to avoid this.
Additionally, the comment, “I like how Bennett is sitting and looking at me. He is ready to listen,” includes information about WHAT is expected – looking at the teacher. Simple statements like this help children learn. They are not just complimented but are reinforced for and are learning the key behaviors. This is essential!
Now back to creative ways to get children to listen and follow directions. We like and use callbacks. There are the oft-used ones such as the following:
1,2,3, eyes on me. - 1, 2 eyes on you!
Hands on top. - Everybody stop!
All set? - You bet!
But you can also integrate learning into your callbacks, too. Clap in a pattern and have children follow that pattern. This encourages listening skills and develops an awareness for patterns.
You may also want to use the titles of books you read or are planning to read. For example you say, “Llama, Llama,” and children respond, “Home with Mama.”
You can also use harmonicas, little bells, or even toy xylophones to encourage listening. You may even want your “helper of the day” to use these instruments.
We like to start the morning by teaching the “attention getter” for the day. You can do this as part of calendar time. Keep in mind that when we change the callback each day, this keeps children listening (an important school readiness skill), is fun, avoids boredom, and keeps a positive atmosphere in your classroom!