Use Cheap Attention Tools and Tricks

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

In politics, as you likely know,  the expression “cheap tricks” has a negative connotation. For teachers, on the other hand, the word cheap usually means affordable. Educators struggle with budgets year in and year out; finding cheap, that is…inexpensive…tools to catch and keep kids’ attention is a good thing!

One way to create attention-ology tricks “on the cheap” is to transform ordinary, dollar-store objects into eye, ear, heart and mind-catching tools. Shop here for some that your students will love, especially as the school year draws to a close, at least for those on a traditional calendar. The “cheap” stuff is capitalized below.

Tackle Test-Time Jitters with STICKY NOTESCheck out my blog pic here

Colorful STICKY NOTES are multi-functional!

that shows adorable sticky notes to tack onto student desks before an end-of-grade exam. You might jot down a test-taking reminder, advising kids to “read questions carefully.” Or you can offer a note of encouragement, such as “I think you’re well-prepared; just do your best.”

Another STICKY NOTE option is to post a sign, like the one in my blog pic, on a bulletin board surrounded by notes that students can pick off and take to their desks. Asking kids to “help the puppies pass their test” essentially turns your class into an imaginary “training team,” where the trainers themselves succeed!

Save Attention Tips in a PIGGY BANK – When I tell my students that my blog is currently being read in 67 countries of the world I invite them to visit and offer attention-ology ideas by clicking on the Comment link. “Who better to know how to catch and keep K – 5 kids’ attention than students like you,” I ask rhetorically. You can put this idea to work in your classroom by cutting paper strips and leaving them

Pig out on attention!

in a basket next to a ceramic PIGGY BANK like the one in my blog pic here. Encourage your class to jot down ideas for maintaining focus during lesson time. Offer an incentive for participation such as a new pencil for anyone who drops an idea slip into the PIGGY BANK with their name on the back. I chose the bank you see here because of the bright red heart on the pig’s side. I tell kids that my PIG “loves attention… and…kids who pay attention in class.” PIGGY BANKING good ideas for keeping your class on task is easily as valuable as saving coins; do you agree?

Make Transition Music with MARACAS – Any Pre-K – 5 teacher knows that the school day is packed “to the gills!” Yikes! Some days leave us with a sense that our heads are spinning. No wonder we need “cheap” easy-to-use attention-ology tools. One of the trickiest challenges is to not lose too much time transitioning from one activity to another in class or on the way to “specials,” like Music. Why not use music to help make transitions! It’s quick…in a second’s time you can pick up two MARACAS like the ones in my blog pic here.

Shake ’em and watch heads turn your way. You can even make up a little ditty to say along with the rhythmic sound. I made up this one…“Shake, shake, shake, let’s shake away from the math of the day; in three shakes now, it’s time to prepare for writing. Shake…shake…shake!” I’ve had success playing MARACAS (dollar-store variety) to engage children. “I’m looking for eyes on me when you hear my maracas,” I explain. “Your attention is music to my ears!” For older elementary school students you can play the instruments adding the expression, “Music rocks and so do students who stay focused on class. Thank you!”

Create an ALIEN Writing Invasion with a BAG– Okay, you may not have happened on a super cheap felt bag with a little alien glued to one side, like the

A not-so-scary alien invasion!

one in my blog pic, but you can adapt this concept to suit a bag that you do find or already have. Any bag with an obvious visual theme will do. As you can see, I’ve used this bag as a holder of Story-Starter Cards that kids can pick. Any eye-catching bag can also hold cards of Extra Credit Math Problems for students to solve or some other set of instructional activity cards.

Coax Class Focus with a PAPER COMPLIMENT CHAIN – Over the years paper has gotten more and more expensive but large packs of inexpensive colored construction paper are still readily available in some stores. Colored construction paper is a staple in elementary school classrooms; how many ways teachers use paper to help kids learn is the trick! I spotted the PAPER COMPLIMENT CHAIN shown below in a classroom where I recently taught. Hundreds of easy paper-based teaching ideas, like this one, are available online and elsewhere. As the teacher who hung up this chain explains, she adds a new link

A compliment chain is a clever incentive.

each time her class receives a compliment from another teacher or school administrator (someone outside her own classroom). The teacher writes the compliment the class received on the paper link before attaching it to the chain. When the paper chain reaches the classroom floor the teacher gives her students some kind of reward, like a pizza party at lunch time.

Another application of a PAPER COMPLIMENT CHAIN could be to hang one up toward the end of a school term to mark the accomplishments of your class. You might color-code the chain, using yellow links for example, to write your own “teacher compliments” to the class. Attach your links to green strips on which students have written favorable comments about their experiences with you. This application has the potential of offering constructive student feedback as you plan for teaching the next term.

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

Talk with you next week and in the meantime, please “Leave a Comment.”

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
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