Blast Off for Learning – Word Play Takes Flight

"Boys and girls, hop aboard this small airplane for a big adventure in math!"

“Boys and girls, hop aboard this small airplane for a big adventure in math!”

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

Young children love imaginary travel.

Kids are also fascinated with spaceships and airplanes.

Use these interests and the exciting language of travel as hooks into lessons.

Capture your class’ attention by inviting students to “BLAST OFF for LEARNING”…

or “HOP ABOARD a SMALL AIRCRAFT for a BIG ADVENTURE in MATH”...or reading, writing, science…you choose the subject.

Playing on words that grab children’s imaginations is a quick and easy way to catch and keep the focus where you want it to be.

Children’s eyes will follow the moves you make simulating a plane or rocket ship taking off from a tabletop or desk.

Add a roaring sound that mimics the engine’s thrust.

Challenge the class to follow the airship’s track as you walk with the toy spaceship or airplane towards the whiteboard  where you’ll begin your lesson.

Remind the class to “stay on board with you” as you begin instruction. “Space and air travelers need to stick together as a team,” you might say. “I need all of you with me throughout this learning adventure!”

Word play is perfect for hooks into lessons. It’s also effective for classroom management…

I spent some time recently in a K – 1 classroom, working with a teacher who is a wizard at catching and keeping her young students’ attention with word play.

"Who besides me, says the teacher, would love to blast off for learning?"

“Who besides me,” says the teacher, “would love to blast off for learning during our library visit?”


This teacher’s animation reminded me of a conductor standing before a glorious symphony – the children’s voices responded to her commands.

She used a wonderful variety of word play to gather the children together before I presented my program to them. “If you can hear me say touch your nose, touch your nose,” this smiling teacher called out to the class.

Moving around the room, she continued the word play, “If you can hear me say touch your toes, touch your toes.”

On she went, mixing up action commands with word reply commands, like, “If you can say ‘mouse in the house,’ say ‘mouse in the house.'”

She closed the attention-getting word play with a dramatic and intentionally drawn out rendition of a love expression.

The teacher called out to her class, “If you can hear me say I, say I” and they did. “If you can hear me say, LOVE, say LOVE,” and the students said LOVE louder than they said I. “If you can hear me say MRS., say MRS.,” and the students knew where this word play was headed. She then predictably said, “If you can hear me say RADCLIFFE, say RADCLIFFE,” and the class squealed with laughter as they finished the word play saying her last name.

Emphasizing the word “hear” by asking “If you can HEAR me” engages kids and leads them to LISTENING, a first cousin to HEARING. Every teacher and parent knows that listening is mandatory for paying attention in school, at home, anywhere!

The sky is the limit with word play in the early grades.

"She sells seashells down by the seashore!"

“She sells seashells down by the seashore! Imagine blasting off on a spaceship headed for a beach in outer space!”

Blast Off with Alliteration – Try this hook…take your students on an imaginary trip to a beach in outer space and share a short sentence full of alliteration. 

Ask for a show of hands from students who love the beach.

Reach into your desk or folder, pull out and hold up a seashell.

Ask the kids to repeat after you, “She sells seashells down by the seashore.”

Challenge them to say the alliterative sentence five times without stumbling over their words.

Offer a reward after the lesson if they are successful with the word play. Rewards easily catch kids’ attention.

Word Play with a Seasonal Flair – Pick a seasonal word like the name of a flower that blossoms in the spring where you live.

“If you can hear me say daffodil, say daffodil,” you might offer for a certain region of the United States.

Kids love improvisation, so continue the word play. Add that you’ll soon bring some daffy daffodils to class and ask who will be daffy about the daffodils with you.

Remember, it’s word play. Make it up as you go; you’ll hold your class’ attention the whole time.

Travel the World – Visit Google Translation to learn the words Attention Please in different languages.

Invite kids to travel the world by using different languages to get their attention.

Invite kids to travel the world by using different languages to get their attention.

Find out and practice corresponding accents.

Surprise your students with the strange sounds of foreign words AND gain their attention when you “parlez français” or “sie sprechen Deutsch.”

The word ATTENTION is spelled the same in French as it is in English. The German word for attention – ACHTUNG – is attention-getting all by itself.

Map out more tricks to blast off for learning.

Word Play with a travel theme is a great way to get kids on board with your curriculum.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting.

Look for Mid-Week Focus on Wednesday. Please send comments about how you’ve used travel themes in K – 5 classes.

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 are acting sluggish in class.

Solution: Show "The BIG E," for ENERGY, an enlarged letter E (or other first letter for the word energy in your alphabet), available in craft stores. Remind the class that energy is a must-have item to get good work done. Tell the class to show you "The BIG E!"

Related Posts: Show Off "The Big E"