Introduce the “Big E” to get the “Big A”

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

See if this sounds familiar – a classroom full of students stretched, no, slouched across the tops of their desks when you’re getting ready to begin a lesson. Slouched students signal a lack of attention to me. Time to find a new way to get the “Big A,” as in ATTENTION!

I see “slouchers” in every class I enter to teach writing when I first meet new students. To inspire the “slouchers” and the whole class, I begin my first lesson of the week with an announcement – “I’m going to be on the lookout for THE BIG E – ENERGY!” “You can feel it in the air, when it’s there,” I explain. “It’s a must-have item,” I coax the class with my words, “to get good work done because when we write (when we do anything), we pull from what is in our minds and our hearts, and with our hands we put that to work (for writing, we put that to work on paper or on computer).”

The students smile at me when I introduce THE BIG E because they like the name for my description of what it takes to actually participate in learning, not just to occupy a seat in school. I can tell by the looks on their faces that no one has ever challenged them to show energy in the way I introduce it at the outset of a week together.

I emphasize the need for energy by telling my classes that when they see me come through the door each day, the first thing I’ll be on the lookout for is what?….you guessed it…THE BIG E. 

If I still see “slouchers” the day after I introduce the concept of needing energy to get good work done, I show a sad face and ask the class if they can tell me what I’m looking to see. In every class students yell out, “THE BIG E!”

My classroom ENERGY INITIATIVES to de-slouch students also include asking them “to sit up, look up, listen up.” This expression is one I’ve heard other teachers use. Its effectiveness, I believe, is based on the fact that the “ups” involve the whole body. Some schools of thought call this “Interplay,” defined as a creative, interactive method of movement and learning. The thinking is that involving students’ heads, hearts and bodies allows them to access information more completely.

Some followers of “Interplay” encourage team exercises, including “Babbling.” You might try this with your class to help students warm up at the beginning of a school day. Here’s how to play:

  • Pair up students and ask them to stand facing each other.
  • Invite each team to make up a word, a “non-word” like doodlibeebop.
  • Ask the children to babble their “non-words” for thirty-seconds or so.
  • Close babble time by asking teammates to give each other a high-five.
  • Return students to their seats and ask everyone to take five deep breaths in absolute silence.
  • Begin instruction time.

Leading into classroom instruction with a free-wheeling exercise that’s more like a game, involving minds, hearts and bodies helps children feel both at ease and tuned in. That’s a great combination for learning in school, really anywhere.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Young students are getting noisy while you’re trying to teach.

Solution: Hold up "Listen Star," a toy magic wand that you’ve designated to be a cue for quiet. Tell the class, "When you see our friend, 'Listen Star' dance across the classroom sky, that’s your signal to HUSH for a moment."

Related Posts: Let "Listen Star" Work Magic for You