Teacher Tips: Getting Children's Attention
Attention please! Try these easy tips to help children listen.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
Verbal, visual, and palpable cues from you can refocus your students, while helping you maintain control and holding your students' attention. Use the tips below to learn the best ways to use the different cues.
1. Reach out
Rather than calling out to a child across the room, stop what you are doing and go to the child. Position your body at the child's level and ask him to look at you before you begin your discussion. Speak in a firm but nonthreatening voice.
2. Use attention grabbers
Appeal to children's senses with motivational devices that have varied colors, textures, shapes, movements, smells, or sounds to help them focus. Use warm, soft colors and provide an orderly environment for children who may become overly stimulated.
3. Be playful
Gain children's attention with a dramatic voice, by putting on a sensational hat, or playing a clapping game. Also, try holding up a secret hand sign for children to duplicate or rolling a ball to different children to keep them alert.
4. Be welcoming
Use children's names to get their attention. Engage children with your facial expressions, such as smiling and making eye contact. Use your body language to convey warmth and acceptance.
5. Describe what you see
Get children's attention by labeling objects or activities, and pointing out similarities and differences. Ask them questions to get them to look at the item and focus on the activity.
6. Be clear and specific
Children are more likely to hear your requests and pay attention when it is clear what you want them to do. Keep directions short and simple.
7. Give timely tips
Allow children time to process your requests for their attention and follow the directions given. Consider that afternoons are low energy times for many children and it may take longer to process attention-getting techniques.
8. Be aware of temperament
Some children can be easily distracted and/or exhibit impulsive behavior. When this is the case, speak calmly, use one-step directions, and give them gentle touches. Other children are more reflective and may need a five-minute warning before they can attend to the next project.
9. Look at learning styles
Be alert to which attention-getting signals work best for children's learning styles. For visual learners, try blinking the lights or raising your hand. For auditory children, sing a song to begin cleanup. For tactile students, squeeze a child's hand or pass a stuffed animal around the circle.
10. Keep groups small
If you have difficulty gaining children's attention, try working with a small group or one-on-one. Giving a child your undivided attention lets him know you care and that what he is saying is important.