Put the FAB 15 A-GEs to Work for You!

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

"Class, let's shake out clutter and clear our minds for learning today!"

“Class, let’s shake out clutter and clear our minds for learning today!”

Let’s pick up the focus on the FAB 15 A-GEs – Attention-getting elements – that can benefit teachers every single school day. To date, Attentionology has explored ten of the FAB 15 elements…

…1) attracting appearance & presence 2) enthusiasm 3) voice 4) eye-catching visuals 5) word choice 6) color 7) music 8) entertainment 9) interaction 10) humor.

Think of A-GEs as teaching assistants ready for your command. Most, if not all, teachers are already using attention-getting elements, like colorful, eye-catching motivational posters hung on classroom walls.

I suggest that you take a few minutes and dig deeper with me into WHY A-GEs work so well. You can reap big benefits when you keep A-GEs in your thinking as you plan and present lessons and activities in your corner of the world.

A teacher’s world is mostly composed of a room (or rooms) full of students, a curriculum to follow, classroom management guidelines and hours of work in and after school. Keeping one’s composure in this action-packed, time-compressed, noisy and demanding composition is a challenge – no doubt.

Many of my colleagues, and maybe you and yours as well, see this challenge as increasingly difficult. Why? Well, I know from my own experience in the last twelve years that the DQ – distractibility quotient – has skyrocketed. I coined the term – DQ – to describe student conduct and the overall atmosphere in many – not all – elementary schools today.

My mandate as a visiting writer/teacher in this high-DQ environment is to reach and teach kids ASAP, because I’m only with them for a week. I need to help my host teachers meet grade level goals. Enter Attentionology – the science and art of catching and keeping every kid’s attention with timely applications of A-GEs – attention-getting elements.

I use one or more of the FAB 15 A-GEs in every class I teach and I’ve learned that when teachers consciously incorporate attention-getting elements into their curriculum and classroom management strategies, students are more likely to retain what they learn; that’s a big benefit!

Today, we’ll look at the elements of Surprise and Dramatic Movement; first a bit more background…

…Schools obviously don’t operate as commercial enterprises, BUT aren’t kids in many – not all – parts of the world coming to class with minds overloaded with commercial messages? Research supports the assertion that kids’ (and adult) brains have been trained to respond to hooks. What’s the hook?” commercially-minded people ask.  A hook is an image and/or message “in twenty words or less” designed to get attention and influence behavior.

Sky’s the limit on ways that teachers can carefully, more consciously and creatively put hooks that use the FAB 15 A-GEs to work to help kids learn.  Read on…

A-GE #11 – Surprise 

“I’ve brought a surprise for you today, boys and girls,” is a sure-fire way to catch kids’ attention. Ever present something to your class with this engaging lead-in, like

SURPRISE! It's a fuzzy flower. We'll plant seeds for real flowers during our science lesson today.

“SURPRISE! It’s a fuzzy flower. We’ll plant seeds to grow real flowers during our science lesson today.”

suddenly pulling a flower from behind your back to begin a science lesson, or flipping a sheet of paper to make a catchy noise as you show a list of spelling words?

I remember assembly programs when I was in elementary school because the principal delighted us by stepping to a microphone and announcing that she had a surprise. Surprise is a magical word; kids get quiet when a surprise is in store; they sit up a little straighter with eyes focused and ears open.

Pre-announced surprises come in three basic parts:

  1. anticipation
  2. unveiling
  3. engagement

Unannounced surprises come in two parts:

  1. unveiling
  2. engagement

Of course, some surprises throughout life result in dismay rather than delight. Attentionology surprises are meant to happily engage children in learning.

SURPRISE! It's a peacock, proud to show off its colorful feathers.

“SURPRISE! It’s a peacock, proud to show off its colorful feathers.”

Pop up books are teaching tools that are full of surprises.

Most pop-up books offer different popping pictures throughout the story. Pop-up books catch attention with the element of surprise and keep kids’ attention with anticipation. As a teacher turns each page, students wonder, “What will pop up next?”

Small tangible surprises, like new erasers or stickers, make effective motivational tools as well. 

Teachers can sustain students’ focus on assignments by announcing that surprises will be in store at the end of the day for students that complete their work.

Have you discovered as I have that surprises help break the monotony of a school days, to our benefit as teachers, as well as to our students.

Another way to surprise children is to suddenly begin speaking in a language other than your native tongue. Quick, easy, and definitely attention-getting!

Using the element of surprise is most effective when you time the surprises in a surprising way, meaning, it’s important not to overuse surprises; overuse diminishes their impact and effectiveness.

A-GE #12 – Dramatic Movement

I just had a funny thought – what if someone created a new reality TV series titled In the Classroom, starring a teacher who embraces the concept that teaching truly is a performing art. Imagine your classroom or mine being the setting for reality TV. We’d have drama alright!

Seriously, do you agree that while teachers don’t think of themselves as actors in a visual medium, like television, we do move about our classroom everyday with an audience – ours students. When you put dramatic movement to work to catch and keep your “audience’s” attention, you’ll help students learn and retain lessons!

Use dramatic, bold gestures like stretching an arm, to direct students' attention.

Use dramatic, bold gestures like stretching an arm, to direct students’ attention.

Think of yourself as presenting information when you teach. Present with dramatic gestures to add emphasis to key points. Add a little pizzazz to class.

The adjective, dramatic, is defined in part as sudden and exciting or unexpected; vividly striking; theatrical.  Teachers do well in the use of A-GE #12 – dramatic movement – as long as we avoid the last part of the definition of dramatic which is overdone; absurd.

Pair dramatic with movement and you have a classroom-tested method of catching and keeping kids’ attention. As you consider using more dramatic movement while teaching, think about this…movement is the key element in television’s capacity to keep eyes glued to a screen. Turn on a TV and count how many times the visual image changes in a single minute. Amazing!

Teachers, of course, can’t function as whirling dervishes in school. My intent in assessing the FAB 15 A-GEs is to empower teachers with tools and strategies they can use at their discretion to reach academic goals.

Imagine yourself stepping into a brand new closet full of new materials, new teaching “outfits” – the FAB 15 A-GEs – that you can try on for use in your classroom. Some will already be familiar; some will feel and fit just right; others will need adjustments to suit you, if you use them at all.

It’s your show. Just remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Please let me know how your “show” goes; send a comment. Stop back by on Wednesday for a new Mid-Week Focus.

Talk with you soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet



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  1. […] Attentionology has explored twelve of the FAB 15 elements so far…1) attracting appearance & presence 2) enthusiasm 3) voice 4) eye-catching visuals 5) word choice 6) color 7) music 8 entertainment 9) interaction 10) humor 11) surprise 12) dramatic movement. […]

  2. […] visuals 5) word choice 6) color 7) music 8 entertainment 9) interaction 10) humor 11) surprise 12) dramatic movement 13) […]

  3. […] visuals 5) word choice 6) color 7) music 8 entertainment 9) interaction 10) humor 11) surprise 12) dramatic movement 13) imagination 14) puppetry. Today’s featured A-GE – personification – is a […]

  4. […] eye-catching visuals 5) word choice 6) color 7) music 8) entertainment 9) interaction 10) humor 11) surprise 12) dramatic movement 13) imagination 14) puppetry & […]

  5. […] visuals 5) word choice 6) color 7) music 8) entertainment 9) interaction 10) humor 11) surprise 12) dramatic movement 13) imagination 14) puppetry & personification 15) […]

  6. […] minds as they enter class or get ready for the first lesson of the day. How? By using the bag to act out the process of ditching distractions…dropping them out of sight…out of […]

  7. […] Surprise your class by posting this notice on random days. Kids will start to be on the lookout for it. […]

  8. […] Wow, what attention-getters – a funny team mascot and the element of surprise! […]

  9. […] Color Rules! Red hot or not, it’s a known fact that color captures kids’ attention. […]

  10. […] – 5 kids enjoy learning with music and lyrics. That’s why an anti-bully RAP may help your class. Follow these steps to RAP IT […]

  11. […] eyes will follow the moves you make simulating a plane or rocket ship taking off from a tabletop or […]

  12. […] class participation to “bring poems to life” with simple dramatizations that “act out what the poem is […]

  13. […] Easy and Effective – I was amazed at the effectiveness of an attention-getting trick that requires nothing but a little guided movement and voice. […]

  14. […] …help them grasp the concept of de-cluttering their minds with simple dramatic activities.  […]

  15. […] Colorful, interesting, fun and funny bags beg for attention. […]

  16. […] Surprise the class with the poem on a day when students seem a bit downhearted or more distracted than usual. […]

  17. […] kids in early grades to successfully set poems to music, the key is to choose easy and familiar […]

  18. […] at the classroom clock and announce in a theatrical voice, “Oh, it’s time for SILLY MINUTES! We must stop what we’re doing for now and pick […]

  19. […] and movement catch children’s attention and energize […]

  20. […] if the windchime makes music when you move it, tell the class that you will add more power to its music by tapping the chimes […]

  21. […] She has had success helping students learn by bringing history to life through costuming. […]

  22. […] quick movements will entertain kids and keep their […]

  23. […] As the day gets underway, offer a bit of attention-getting humor… […]

  24. […] students with a poetry reading that includes a surprise toss of the leaves into the air. Invite kids to recite the poem aloud with […]

  25. […] Dramatize Creating a Clean Slate – Help younger children grasp the concept of de-cluttering their minds with simple dramatic gestures. […]

  26. […] Colorful, interesting, fun and funny bags of all kinds beg for attention. […]

  27. […] Surprise the class with the poem on a day when students seem a bit downhearted or more distracted than usual. […]

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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