Principals Catch Attention, Too

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

In the aftermath of the tragedy last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (US), I was reminded of something obvious in K – 5 education, but it’s something I’ve not yet written about on this blog, and that is…effective principals catch kids’ attention right along with the teachers in elementary schools.

Principals like Dawn Hochsprung, only 47 years old when she was killed as she rushed towards a terrible intruder outside her office.

In the few days since the horrific event, Hochsprung has been described as an engaged leader at Sandy Hook ES, with an awesome ability to engage other teachers and most especially the young students in her school.

She’s said to have worn eye-catching costumes to entertain students. I can picture Hochsprung wearing a “Dr. Seuss hat,” like you see in my

Costume attire that a wonderful principal, like Dawn Hochsprung, might have worn

Costume attire that a wonderful principal, like Dawn Hochsprung, might have worn

blog pic here, on March 4 each year to celebrate the birthday of one of America’s most beloved authors.

She might have even tucked a little soft toy, like the baby hippo hiding in the blog pic, under the hat so that it would fall out when she pulled the hat off her head to…you guessed it…catch young kids’ attention!

Reading about Hochsprung clarified the power of attentionology tools and tricks in another way for me, too. I hope this simple concept helps you…educators that catch kids’ attention with fun, functional strategies, like Hochsprung used, relate to children  better. Strong relationships build trust. Trusting children open themselves up to learning and growing. 

Hochsprung, I’ve read, also hosted what she called “appy hours”  – events where her teachers would gather around a table at school, like the educators in my blog pic below,

"There's an app for that!" "Let's look at information about how we can use technologies to help students prepare for the future."

“There’s an app for that!” “Let’s look at information about how we can use technologies to help students prepare for the future.”


  • learn new “apps” to use in helping kids master skills.
  • swap ideas about the best technologies for K – 5 classroom application.
  • brainstorm about ways for school and community to work together.
  • get to know each other better.

I can’t help but think that teachers and children in schools and communities in parts of the world that have been affected by all-too-frequent violence might benefit from a clean sweep now – before, not after the new year. We won’t forget the past, of course, but we’re required to forge ahead.

If theater is practice for living, then you can help your kids make their own clean sweep – brushing away sadness and disappointments of the past and ushering in new plans for 2013 – by inviting them to join in a BRUSH OUT – BRUSH IN class event.

There’s comfort in traditions, isn’t there. Explain to your class that teachers in the earliest English schools, hundreds of years ago, literally made a clean sweep – they brushed the soot off the hearth before lighting a winter fire to warm the class, waving goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one. The expression, “starting with a clean slate,” comes from that English tradition.

The only tools you need for BRUSH OUT – BRUSH IN are a small

"Let's learn from the past, but sweep it aside to make new plans for the coming year!"

“Let’s learn from the past, but sweep it aside to make new plans for the coming year!”

dustpan, a brush, and a now-old 2012 calendar (substituted for the 2011 calendar shown in my blog pic here).

There are lots of ways to host this attention – getting event.

For example, you can simply tuck a 2012 calendar inside a large colorful bag along with a small dustpan and brush.

1) Set the bag with the small dustpan and brush in it on a table in front of the class.

2) Announce to your students that it’s time to get a jump on sweeping away sadness and disappointments of the year to make way for new plans in 2013.

3) Invite a volunteer to come up and pull out one item from the bag, then another and a third.

4) Ask the three students to stand by to help you make a clean sweep. Give each of them a chance to demonstrate brushing away the 2012 calendar. Expect laughter – a good thing! Note how well your class pays attention.

5) Explain next that the real fun (aka school work) is ahead (recommended for grades 2 – 5). Distribute notebook paper, ask your students to draw a line down the middle of the page to make two columns with headings. Demonstrate what you mean and write OLD above the left column, NEW above the right column.

6) Instruct the kids to write one list in one column of what they’d like to sweep away from this year, then a second list of what they’d like the new year to bring. Help younger children express themselves, as necessary, possibly making the activity a class “lesson” and using the board to note the ideas that your students offer.

Let’s not wait until new years eve to toast in hopes for 2013. Let’s express ourselves now. Let’s help our students express what is in their minds and hearts as they look back and forward, and let’s model positive behaviors like Dawn Hochsprung did, with the hope that the violence will end.

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

Talk with you again soon ,

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: 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.

Related Posts: Start Students' Engines for Writing