Getting the Wiggles Out and Catching Students’ Attention

By Megan Power on October 4, 2011
  • Grades: PreK–K

Picture this: You get all of your students to the rainbow rug for a fun and exciting story. As you look out, anxious to begin, you are greeted by a sea of movement. . . . Mason is lying down on the rug. Maya is playing with her dress. Mike and Chris are play-fighting. Miguel is rolling his head in circles and pulling on Carson’s shirt. You say to yourself, “These kids just can’t sit still!” 

The beginning of the school year can be a very wiggly time, especially in preschool and early childhood classrooms. How do you catch and keep students’ attention while allowing for the wiggle time they need? Click "read more" to find a few ideas for getting the wiggles out and helping students focus.trans.gif

Transitions With Music

Music can be used throughout the day to help students learn. I use music to help teach a concept, to inspire students during writing and work time, and to manage my classroom. Using music to transition students, for example, works wonders. In the beginning of the day when I turn on a song, students automatically clean up and work their way over to the rug. Music sets time limits for transition times in a fun and child-sensitive manner. Read "Sing and Dance Your Way Throughout the School Day (and Year)" for more ways to infuse music into your day.

Other Ways to Signal Transition Times

There are many ways, in addition to playing music, to let students know how much time they have left to transition. You might use a countdown stopwatch that your students can see, for example. You might hold your hands up and move them closer together to show time getting smaller. Students will know that when you touch your hands together, time is up and they need to be ready to move on. Many teachers also count down, so their students are ready at zero.

Brain Breaks

In my class, we use the name "brain breaks" for quick games or movement exercises that get our blood flowing. Simon Says and even good old Hokey Pokey are other fun ways to get the wiggles out. It's easy for students to follow along in these games, and they usually make students smile. You might also have students do some quick exercises like jumping jacks, or have them run a lap around the playground and then walk back in, calm and ready to work. "Shaking all of the sillies out" — physically shaking different parts of the body — is another fun one for students.


My students love doing quick, celebratory cheers. I got many of my cheers from Dr. Jean. Here are a few favorites:

The Oreo Clap: Students put their hands together and twist to separate imaginary cookies. Then they pretend to lick, lick, and clap them back together.

The Harry Potter Cheer: You take out your wand and say, "You did tttt, tttt, tttt terrific!" while moving your wand around as though casting a spell.

A colleague of mine, Ms. Sharelle, has her students blow air onto a pretend star and then rub it on their shirt as if they were shining it. See Dr. Jean's free cheer cards for more cheers.

A fun way to get students' attention while teaching and reviewing sight words is to cheer the words. So Simple Learning sells a program that teaches cheers for the most frequently used sight words. Take a look at some samples to get an idea. If funds are low, you can easily create your own sight word cheers. Cheering words catches students’ attention while reinforcing content.

Attention-Getting Phrases & Routines

There are many rituals you can institute and phrases you can say to help children know it's time to pay attention. Some of my favorites include:

• "Clap, clap, clap. Hands on your lap." 
• "If you hear my voice, put your hands on your head." 
• "Eyes are watching. Ears are listening. Voices are off. Bodies are still." 
• "Tootsie Roll. Lollipop. You’ve been talking, time to stop." 
• "Open them." (And model opening hands.) "Shut them. Put them in your lap."
• "Popsicle." (The students know this means they have to freeze.)
• Teacher: "One, two, three. Eyes on me." Students: "One, two. Eyes on you." 
• "And a hush goes over the crowd." 
• "I want to see all of your beautiful eyes." 

You might also make up a pattern of claps and have students repeat it. Or choose a phrase related to a topic you are studying. For example, on Pirate Day, I would yell, "Pirates," and they would all freeze and respond, "Arrrr!"

I hope you have found some attention-catching ideas that you can use in your class today. I would love to hear about ones you find successful. Please comment below so we can all help our young students to be wiggle free.


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