Dolphin Tricks & More to Attract Distracted Kids

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus to showcase more tools and tricks to catch and keep kids’ attention…

A colorful board that sends the message, "We'll have a busy school term!"

A colorful board that sends the message, “We’ll have a busy school term!”

and bulletin board designs to attract distracted kids and help them learn.

Why do teachers have to work harder than ever to get kids to pay attention today?

Consider this…Hardly a day goes by without news that relates to “our culture of distraction.” I read one report two days ago from Carolyn Gregoire who writes for The Huffington Post. Gregoire cited assertions by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, that in our distracted world many of us function at work or school, at play, at home with divided attention and diminished energy resources – read “not enough sleep.” The underlying cause? Schwartz calls it “the unrelenting siren song of technology and social media.”

When adults and children feel pressured to stay constantly connected, attention-levels suffer and moods can turn sour.

Big bright bulletin boards are mood elevators!

Every time I walk the halls of schools where I visit to teach writing, I look for ways to turn visual resources into attentionology tools.

I discover clever ideas of other creative teachers and clearly see that:

  • color catches the eye.
  • changing up door and wall decor draws students’ attention and helps educators to, in essence, “merchandise” education.

Why do we need to “merchandise” classroom learning? The answer points back to living in a world of distraction and constant change.

Think about retailers; they frequently move merchandise around to keep shoppers looking, similarly to how teachers aim to keep kids’ attention.

Mindful of time limits that teachers constantly face, the following pics and tricks have quick tips for implementation.

DIVE INTO LEARNING!  Invite your class to “dive into learning” in the new school term with a bulletin board that features a treasure full of gold.

What's in the gold chest?

Help kids master the concept that education IS  its own treasure, not something to be taken for granted. Make (or invite students to make) gold coins and write subject areas that are appropriate for your class – math, reading, writing, science, etc. – in dark letters on the yellow coin surfaces. Post the coins in and around the treasure chest on the bulletin board.

Use a Dive Into Learning Bulletin Board to spark other classroom activities…

"Come on kids, let's dive into learning today!"
“Come on kids, let’s dive into learning today!”

Dive deeper into the message that the Dive Into Learning Bulletin Board presents by leading your class in a diving lesson! “Come on, class, let’s dive into a cool lesson.”

Transitioning into math, reading, etc. with a quick physical activity like pretending to “dive into learning about __________” (fill in your lesson plan title), pumps oxygen to kids’ brains, offering a refreshing break between classroom activities.

Keep Kids Swimming To Reach Goals – Activity To Teach Perseverance

"Keep swimming to reach your goals!"
“Keep swimming to reach your goals!”

“Diving into learning” is a good start, but this teacher is taking the analogy a step further. She and her students are simulating swimming to reach their goals.

Try this with your students and ask them what it takes to be a good swimmer – practice, patience, strength, endurance and more – also key ingredients in developing the awesome ability to pay attention!

A Dolphin Visits – Activity to Help Kids Who Are Feeling “Down” – Most kids love the idea of swimming with dolphins. They’ve seen these friendly ocean travelers online, in movies and

Slip a dolphin folder on a struggling student's desk to lift the child's mood and help her or him re-focus

Slip a dolphin folder on a struggling student’s desk to lift the child’s mood and help her or him re-focus.


Pick up on the Dive Into Learning theme and the popularity of dolphins by keeping a folder with a dolphin on the cover in your classroom.

When a child seems “down,” distracted by worry, or frustrated by challenging school work, slip the dolphin folder onto her or his desk and explain that “the dolphin wanted to stop by for a visit.”

Invite the student to write a note to the dolphin and leave it inside the folder for you to pick up later. The note may reveal the child’s concern and offer insight into how you can help.


This bulletin board offers a clever way to reward young children who do a good job paying attention. You can create a similar poster with space for a photo and short “bio” to recognize a student monthly that has been the most focused and on task in class.

Who's tops at paying attention this month in class?
Who’s tops at paying attention this month in class?


The collection of paper owls posted on a teacher’s door in my blog pic below presents names of class members to welcome children to first grade.

You can also use paper owl cutouts like these to represent outstanding learners – kids who know how to look and listen when you ask them to do so.

Outstandiing Owls know how to look, listen and learn!
Outstanding Owls know how to look, listen and learn!

Adapt these attention-getting tools, tricks and bulletin boards to your part of the world. For example, you can substitute animals that are more familiar to your students. Or, as another example, if you live in a mountainous region you might choose to use a bulletin board that invites students to climb and dig for treasure instead of diving for gold.

Change it up; one of the best ways to prepare children for success in a world that constantly changes is to model embracing change – but control it in school. As master of your classroom, you can “merchandise” education to suit your goals.

Look for Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers on Monday. Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Mid-Week Focus
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