Wands, Words, Circle Time to Prepare Children for Learning

Looking for quick and easy ways to help children settle down at the start of a school day?

"Listen Star" has magical listening abilities

“Listen Star” has magical listening abilities

Mid-Week Focus this week features more tried and true attention-getting tools and tricks – my own ideas and strategies that other teachers have shared with me.

Choose from this menu of wands, words, and clever ways to prepare children for learning time…

INTRODUCE “LISTEN STAR” – Listen Star” is a classroom-tested attention-getting tool. It’s a large star on a long wand. Mine has bells hanging from the lower star points that jingle with movement.

I keep “Listen Star” hidden from children until I introduce it.

“Listen Star” “lives” upside down in a large bright party bag until I reach for its wand.

When I first introduce “Listen Star” to young children, I pull the wand out of the bag and wave the star back and forth way up high where everyone can see it.

I tell my classes that “Listen Star” has “magical listening abilities.” I say, “When you see and hear ‘Listen Star’ dance and fly across the classroom sky, that’s a clue, that’s your cue to hush – I emphasize the word H-U-S-S-S-H – so that you can hear me clearly and I can hear you.”

“Let’s give it a try,” I suggest, and I wave the star playfully, as if it were alive, and make its bells jingle to delight the kids and test once again the star’s amazing attention-getting skill.

Teachers of students in the early grades love “Listen Star,” especially because this engaging tool is so easy to make…


Materials You Will Need:

  • A dowel or, simpler still, a long straw
  • Light-colored card stock or pre-packaged large star shape (available at teacher supply stores)
  • Pencil, colored markers
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Optional: hole punch, 2 small bells, ribbon or string

Steps to Follow:

  • If necessary, draw a large star on cardstock.
  • Cut out star shape.
  • Optional: draw a face on one side of the star to personalize “Listen Star.”
  • Tape star to the top of the dowel or straw, leaving a long “wand” to hold.
  • Optional: punch small holes in the tips of the two lowest star points. Thread ribbon or string through the bell tips and the holes and tie to secure.
  • Voila! “Listen Star” is ready to fly and not just in school classrooms.

RHYME-TIME SHOUT-OUT – A first grade teacher I’ve worked with enjoys success using a rhyme game to catch kids’ attention and get them ready for Language Arts.

Rhyme Time Shout-Out is a great lead into Luscious Literature Day!

Rhyme Time Shout-Out is a great lead into Luscious Literature Day!

She stands by her classroom door when students are returning from a “Special.”

As students “trickle in” to class, she starts the game by shouting out an easy-to-rhyme word like “cat.”

Children are encouraged to call out words that rhyme with “cat,” like “fat,” “hat,” “sat,” and so on.

The teacher is wowed by how well her students listen during game time. How does she know they’re so tuned in? When any students repeat a word that has already been shouted out, they’re challenged by other kids to come up with something new.

Another trick at play in the rhyme game this teacher so successfully plays to catch kids’ attention…she allows nonsense words to keep the game going for as long as she wants.

This attentionology-savvy teacher is quick to point out, though, that she only allows nonsense words in this game, not when students are writing rhyme.

Another big benefit this activity offers the teacher – students release pent-up energy; this helps prepare them to focus on learning.

"What's up?" "Sweetie, you seem upset about something. Want to talk for a minute?"

“What’s up?” “Sweetie, you seem upset about something. Want to talk for a minute?”

PROBLEM RESOLUTION TIME BEFORE LESSON TIME – A third grade teacher shares an attentionology tool that she’s been using for years because it is as predictably effective as some of her students are predictably distracted by problems when starting school each day.

“You can take it to the bank,” advises this teacher, “that students can’t focus well on subject matter when their minds are wrapped around unresolved personal problems.

To set a good stage for learning each day, this teacher makes a short trip around her classroom, stopping by individual students who looked unsettled or distressed. She asks “What’s up?” 

This open-ended question offers kids the opportunity to quickly pour out personal concerns of the day. Less burdened after expressing their feelings, students are better able to pay attention.

The teacher points out that she often catches a few minutes with students before they take a seat at their desks or table groups. This allows for some privacy. Conversations at desks can be easily overheard and this teacher observes that most students prefer discussing problems in private.

FORM AN ATTENTION CIRCLE – Circle time has been a popular method of sharing information, stories, suggestions, souvenirs…you name it…for decades in schools around the world.

Invite students to take turns telling what helps them and/or makes them pay attention in school. You have all kinds of ideas for gaining and maintaining the class’ attention, but your students might surprise you with some new bright ideas.

I read recently about a third-grade teacher who set up circle time to invite her students to take turns telling what makes them happy.

The magic of wands, words, and circle time is their multi-functional quality. Creative teachers can use old tools and strategies in new attention-getting tricks to prepare children for learning.

Please subscribe here and send comments about your magical teaching tools.

Look for Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers on Monday.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet


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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.
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