A Pair of Attention-Getting School Day Starters

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus to feature a pair of attention-getting school day starters…

tools and strategies to motivate students to get ready to work…

  • one for children in grades K – 2
  • one for students in grades 3 – 5
  • PLUS a bonus motivator in furry form to get kids thinking healthy just before lunch time.


Playing Wake Up Little Cow is a School Day Starter that is (to use an old English expression) as easy as pie!

Introduce Little Cow at the beginning of the school year by pointing out where Little Cow “lives” in your classroom. NOTE: Any cuddly stuffed animal will work for this strategy; just change the activity name to suit your selection.

Wake up Little Cow! It’s time to start the school day.

Tell the kids that “Little Cow loves to read; that’s why she’s lying comfortably on a bookshelf, like you see.”

“Problem is,” you continue…Little Cow often nods off. Look at her,” you say…she was fast asleep until just now!”

Take this School Day Starter a step further by telling the class that you’ll be needing their help keeping Little Cow alert to your lessons.

Use Little Cow to promote good behavior, good spelling, good…whatever you choose her function to be.

Assign a different child each day or week to wake up Little Cow at the start of each school day.

Encourage children to show interest in learning about different countries and cultures by placing Little Cow next to a globe in your room.

Your creative uses of Little Cow will “bring her to life” as a super school day starter!

Catch the early morning attention of your third – fifth grade students


Make a poster with the following pledge or one that you and your class write and design to hang on a bulletin board or wall in your classroom:


Help me to be curious about the world around me.

Help me to be prepared for the challenges I face today.

Help me to be open to difficult tasks.

Help me to be determined to complete my work.

Help me to be responsible in all I do.

Help me to accept people’s differences.

Help me to be kind in my thoughts and words.

Help me to be aware of my talents.

Help me to be myself and be the best that I can be!

When you have time to schedule another activity with the Students’ Pledge, use it to play Help Me Rock! 

This game is a kind of round-robin in class to encourage their full participation in learning.

Here’s how to play…

“Congratulations on your Students’ Pledge”

1) Write (or ask students to write) each Help Me sentence in the Students’ Pledge onto strips of paper (one sentence per strip) or on congratulation cards.

2) Put the strips into a “Help Me! Box.” (Any box large enough to hold the paper strips or cards will do.)

3) Make a Help Me! sign to put on top of the box.

4) At the start of a school day, call on a few students to pull out and read aloud one Help Me! reminder from the box.

5) Invite the kids to “rap” rather than say the pledge sentence; that’s the Help Me! Rock. 

6) Choose kids from around the classroom to keep everyone’s attention.

7) Let the “rapper” ask the class to repeat the Help Me! pledge; allow some light hand clapping or finger snapping to create a beat with the “rap.”

Older elementary school kids enjoy this. The music and movement help wake them up at the start of a school day.

USING the Students’ Pledge, RATHER THAN JUST POSTING it, helps students not just learn the words, but also take them to heart.


While students are busy with work and not paying attention to you, slip a large stuffed animal, like Harry Ape, onto your chair with a motivational sign that encourages

"Harry Ape" holds a sign to remind kids to eat a healthy lunch.

“Harry Ape” holds a sign to remind kids to eat a healthy lunch.

children to eat healthy at lunch time.

When a fun, funny “critter” offers an important message, like Please Eat a Healthy Lunch!, some students that haven’t yet paid attention to the importance of making good lunch choices may catch and keep the tip.

A furry message-sender is clearly suitable for children in grades K – 2. There’s some debate about how appropriate it is for teachers to use puppets and stuffed animals in the upper elementary grades.

My experience tells me that the effectiveness of teaching tools, including stuffed toys, depends on HOW teachers use them. It’s the strategy and the delivery that count. It’s asking two key questions: What is the intent with this tool? How can I use it in an appropriate way for my students?

That’s my experience, but Mid-Week Focus is moving into a research mode. We want to know what works for YOU!

Please subscribe to attentionology.com and PLEASE send comments to share your ideas about tools and tricks that catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention.

Look for Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers on Monday.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The 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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