Sunday, July 19, 2015

Worst Attention Prompt Ever - Classroom Management Tip #2

Let me tell you a story about a terrible attention prompt.   I was at a state level meeting of all the new teacher induction coordinators from every district in the state. Most of the fifty people in the room were very veteran educators of middle age or older.  The presenter that day happened to be an elementary teacher.  She stood at the front of the room full of older teachers and said "One, two, three. Eyes on me."  Sigh. Seriously?  For a room full of older adults?   Perhaps two of the people in the room responded half-heartedly "One, two.  Eyes on you."   The rest of us were quiet and giving her our attention - but mostly because we were astonished and speechless over her poor choice of attention prompts. The moral of that story is:  Use attention prompts but choose them wisely for your audience and for yourself.

Be sure that the attention prompt you choose is something you are comfortable using.  I hate that raised hand prompt.  I hate it in professional development meetings and I hate it in a classroom. So I didn't use it.  I wouldn't have been able to be consistent with it, and I knew that.  Instead, I used "May I have your attention please?"  said in a normal tone of voice.  Once.  Then I just stood there and stared at students who were talking until they gave me their attention.  If that didn't work, I would say their name.  See Classroom Management Tip #1.  

A colleague of mine, a high school physics teacher, hung a wind chime from the ceiling in her room. She uses it only when she needs to redirect student attention from whatever they are working on, to give her their attention for something important.  It works like a charm.

A drama teacher I know had a "spot on stage" (a specific place in her large drama room where she stood only when she needed students to attend to her).  It was as effective as if the lights had gone out and a spotlight had been trained on her.  When she moved to that spot students noticed, stopped what they were doing and paid attention.  The key for both of those teachers was that the prompt was used sparingly, consistently, and that they didn't hesitate to call out students who didn't pay attention to it - from day one of the school year.   

Whatever you decide to use - music, a wind chime, a polite request - just be consistent with it.  Use it only when you really want everyone's attention immediately.  And don't EVER start talking until you have every single student's attention.  

If music is your thing, check out Josh Woodward's songs that you can download for free without violating copyright.

I have no affiliation with Josh.  I just like his music and I think it's awesome that he shares his talents so freely.    

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