Teachers’ Attention Tricks

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

I’m always so appreciative when other teachers share their tried and true attention tools and tricks with me, and I’m happy to pass their strategies along to you here. Check out the new techniques I’ve received in the past week…


RHYME-TIME BEFORE LESSON TIME – a first grade teacher reports success using a rhyme game to catch kids’ attention and get them ready to learn. As students “trickle in” to class, she starts the game by shouting out an easy-to-rhyme word like “cat.” Children are encouraged to call out words that rhyme with “cat,” like “fat,” “hat,” “sat,” and so on. The teacher is wowed by how well her students listen during game time. How does she know they’re so tuned in? When any students repeat a word that has already been shouted out, they’re challenged by other kids to come up with something new. Another trick at play in the rhyme game this teacher so successfully plays to catch kids’ attention…she allows nonsense words to keep the game going for as long as she wants. This attention-ology practitioner is quick to point out, though, that she only allows nonsense words in this game, not when students are writing rhyme. Another big benefit this activity offers the teacher – students release pent-up energy; this helps prepare them to focus on learning.


PROBLEM RESOLUTION TIME BEFORE LESSON TIME – A fifth grade teacher shares an attention-ology tool that she’s been using for years because it is as predictably effective as her students are predictably distracted by problems when they enter class each day. “You can take it to the bank,” advises this teacher, “that students in upper elementary grades, and especially grade 5, can’t focus well on subject matter when their minds are wrapped around unresolved personal problems.” To set a good stage for learning each day, this teacher makes the rounds in her classroom, stopping by individual students and asking “what’s up.” This open-ended question offers kids the opportunity to pour out personal concerns of the day. The teacher points out that she often catches a few minutes with students before they take a seat at their desks where privacy is at a premium because most classrooms are set up with desks in clusters or close rows. Conversations at desks can be easily overheard and this teacher observes that most students prefer discussing problems in private.


GIVE STUDENTS “THE FACE” – In a perfect world, all students would arrive in every teacher’s classroom upbeat, ready to listen and eager to get to work. But, a perfect world this is not, and teachers learn early in their careers, if not on their first day in this challenging occupation, that they need a quick trick to catch and keep kids’ attention. Every teacher owns this trick and one teacher recently called it simply “the face.” She’s had most success using “the face” in small group settings, working as a speech therapist. Other teachers have confirmed that “the face” is also effective with larger groups. It’s funny to picture what we must look like to our students when we give them “the face,” but when we make “the face” in class on an as needed basis, it isn’t funny at all. I believe that for anyone who has ever been a parent and a teacher,” the face” has done double duty.  At least I know that’s true for me!

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

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe 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: Students continue to use lackluster verbs in their writing.

Solution: Show toy cars and pretend to make them zip across a page, telling the class that good writing includes action words (verbs) that have "zip." Ask the class for examples of "zippy" verbs like zoom, race, flash, rush, etc.

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