Signals That You Need Students' Attention



  • Advanced Notice - Something I found that works well (because I have used many of these things to get their attention) is letting the students know which one I am going to use. So before they break into groups, I will say "when you see/hear me to X" you have 30 seconds to get quiet and focus your attention on me" and I have found they usually respond faster when they are aware HOW you are attempting to get their attention. - cartierm cartierm

  • Counting - The teacher asks students to return to their seats and then begins to count backwards from 30 in the target language. If the class is noisy, they won't have heard all the instructions, but those who can hear you counting will usually start moving toward their desks. The rest of the class will often ask their peers why you are counting. When you get to 20, remind students that they should be moving toward their seats. If students know the numbers 0-20, ask those who are already seated to begin counting down with you. When you get to 10, you can call students who are not responding very quickly by name and tell them to hurry, hurry, hurry! You can slow the count down if you feel students are trying to comply. You can also speed it up if you think they need some incentive. Anyone who is standing when you finish counting has to pay a "forfeit"--answer a simple question, do a task like collecting papers, or passing something out, etc. When you are first teaching this strategy, try to make the tasks easy enough that students are not embarrassed, but hard enough that they don't want to be the last one standing - chericem1 chericem1

  • Culturally Authentic Instruments - Culturally authentic instrument or noisemaker (castanets, cow bell, drum, maracas, etc.). Consider giving one of these to a student who typically has trouble settling down and asking the student to stand at the front of the class and use the instrument to gain everyone's attention - chericem1 chericem1

  • Hand Signals - You start it, as they see it, they mimic it. I use this with my middle school students. I call it the "quiet coyote" they see it is out, they mimic it, and must be quiet. It works REALLY well for middle school, im not sure it would work well in high school - cartierm cartierm
QuietCoyotecartierm2008.jpg
The Quiet Coyote

  • Lights - Flicker the lights (high schoolers don't like this very much--mine tell me I'm treating them like babies when I do it)

  • Patterned Clapping/Snapping - Clap or snap in a particular pattern. Students must copy what they hear. Teacher continues to clap/snap until all students get it right. - chericem1 chericem1



  • Phrase, Poem, Proverb, Rhyme, or Tongue Twister - You say the first part, they finish the phrase (i.e., you have to pre-teach these) (from an idea by in the KFLA Bulletin) - chericem1 chericem1

  • Power Teaching - 6th Grade - Think about the ways the techniques demonstrated in this video could be adapted to a world language classroom in order to provide students with small, functional chunks of input in ways that help them to process and remember what they are learning. Notice how as the video continues, students copy the teachers' voice in their responses. - chericem1 chericem1

  • Songs - Begin singing a song in the target language that you know that your students know well and circulate through the room as you do. Stop the song periodically and say, "If you can hear me, sing with me" to those students who are near you. Students join in as they hear you until everyone is singing. This is a great strategy because they can't talk and sing at the same time, so you can start talking as soon as the song ends - chericem1 chericem1

  • Sound Effects - Many of the affirmations listed on this page can easily be adapted as ways to get students attention. You do the gesture and make the sound effect, then ask students to copy you. Later, you can just tell the class it is time for a roller coaster, a yee haw, etc. - chericem1 chericem1

  • Stop, Stand, Smile, & Wait - You stand in a pre-determined spot in the room, smile, and wait for everyone to be quiet - chericem1 chericem1

  • Timer- Set a timer. Tell students in advance that when it dings, they are supposed to get quiet. You can use a simple kitchen timer, or one of these fun online timers that explode, hatch, etc., when the time runs out: - chericem1 chericem1
    • This is EXTREMELY effective for middle school students. It also takes the blame off the teacher for cutting off the activity. I usually set the timer, and then give them an additional minute or two after the timer goes off to have their attention etc.- cartierm cartierm

  • Whisper - This worked in my class today, as the students started getting louder and louder, I began to whisper, and kept on giving instructions, soon they were all paying attention and whispering questions in order to find out what they missed...suerte de principiante :) - Liligee Liligee



See also: Affirming Students' Efforts & Responses, Classroom Commands in the Target Language, Classroom Management, Establishing Expectations, Managing the Class Through Curriculum, Managing Minor Misbehaviors & Chronic Problems, Strategies for Motivating the Reluctant Learner



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