How to Get Their Attention & Control Talking
Maintaining student focus in
the classroom is a troublesome area whether you've been teaching for
years or are just starting out. The number one problem in the
classroom is "talking". What can you do to maintain
student focus and control talking in the classroom. If you want
students to sit quietly and not talk, then you are in for a long
ride. Students need to talk, especially young students.
Talking is a necessary tool
in acquiring information. There is
no better way for students to understand what they are learning that
to discourse with another student....to share ideas...to discuss what
it is they understand to be true.
Talking only becomes a problem when it negatively impacts instruction.
First, ask yourself, when are
students talking? Are students talking during instruction, while
your are giving instructions, during work time, or are they talking
about a project? It is okay for students to talk while they
work. They may not always be talking about the work at hand, but
as long as they are focused on their work and it does not impose upon
someone else, then talking is okay. Although off-task talking is
acceptable, talking off-task for too long is not acceptable. Should
a student or a group of students talk off-task for too long, simply
walk over to them and ask them to share what they have been working
on. Students are immediately back on task and no-one has been
singled out. In regards to noise level, students can be taught
to use a one-inch voice (a sound just above a whisper) so that they do
not interrupt the learning environment for someone else. If
students are talking during instructional time then this can present a
problem. Students need to learn when it is appropriate to talk
and when it is necessary to listen.
The following techniques are
tools that can be administered for teaching students when it is appropriate
to talk and when it is necessary to listen.
My Time....Your Time
approach teaches students that when the teacher talks or gives a
signal it is "My Time" (the teacher's time) and students are
to listen and be attentive. "Your Time" (the student's
time) teaches children that there will be a time set aside for them to
talk, discuss concepts, and complete work without disrupting the
learning environment. During "My Time" students are to
be silent, eyes are to be on the teacher, and students are to be
listening. During "Your Time" students may complete
class work, group assignments, get supplies, or sharpen pencils.
Be specific. Inform students of the things they can do during
"Your Time". When using this approach follow through
on consequences. Should someone talk during "Your
Time" there should be a swift penalty. For example, when a
student talks during "Your Time" quickly correct the student
by saying "I expect everyone to be quiet and listening when I am
talking" then give the student a short time out (3-5 minutes away
from the group). Be consistent with the consequences you
Walk the Room
best approach to classroom management is monitoring your students and
giving praise for a job well done. When students begin a task it
is important for the teacher to walk the room. Be sure to stop
by each student's desk and acknowledge their progress. It may
sound like it takes a lot of time, but it is really quite simple.
Encouraging a student can be as simple as a pat on the back, a thumbs
up, whispering "good job" or "WOW!", or a quick
phrase of affirmation...."I like how you remembered to write
neatly" or "I like how you followed the
directions". Children love to hear that they are on the
right track. This is also a good time to listen in on student
conversations and monitor the work they are doing.
times behavior disruptions can be quickly corrected through the use of
signals. As a teacher it is important to develop signals that
allow you to tell a student that behaviors are unacceptable.
Fingers: Gently tap on the student's desk to get their
attention and bring them back into focus.
Cards: Quietly walk to the student's desk and drop of a
warning card. To make a warning card, cut brightly
colored paper (construction paper or card stock) into a 4 x
6 card. Label each card with a gentle warning, such as
"You Are Off Task" or "Warning", and
then laminate for durability. The student gets the
reinforcement they need and you limit disruptions in the
Are Off Task
Talking: When students are talking during instruction,
simply stop talking. Look students in the eye and give
a quiet signal such as an index finger over the lips.
Once students are quiet, which should only take 10-15
seconds, remind them that during instruction time they are
to be silent and paying attention to the teacher. Use
this time to remind students of your expectations and then
resume with your lesson.
Students love to work together in groups or with
a partner but there are times when their excitement for learning gets
the best of them and the noise level becomes too loud for a successful
learning experience. These strategies have been proven to be
successful in getting students quiet, focused, and in control in a
quick, creative format.
To get students' attention, give the
"Give Me Five" signal. Each finger
represents a signal. (1) eyes looking (2) ears listening (3)
mouths closed (4) hands still, and (5) feet quiet.
When the teacher says "Give Me Five" students are
to hold up their hand while thinking of these five things to
show that they are ready to listen.
or Tap a Pattern
When the teacher needs to get
the student's attention, there are several patterns that a
teacher can clap or tap.
teacher can say "Clap once if you hear
me" "Clap twice if you hear me"
times if you hear me". By the third clap
everyone should be at attention and focused on
(2) The teacher can
tap a table two times followed
by three quick
(3) Lead students
in tapping out "Shave and Hair
teacher taps a table two times,
follows with two quick
claps, and ends
with two taps on a table.
When students become too noisy, one
strategy that works is to use quiet lights. Simply
turn the classroom lights off until the class becomes
quiet. This should only take 10-15 seconds away from
the exercise but will get the student's attention and
provide a positive reminder for students to return to their
work with more focus.
Flying High is another strategy for when
students become noisy during group work or partner work.
whistle from any toy store or school supply
store. When students become too noisy, blow the whistle
followed by the phrase "You Are Flying Too High and You
Need to Bring Your Noise Level Down". The kids
really think the plane whistle is neat and its a humorous way
to get their attention.
Train whistles are becoming more common
in the classroom and they are a neat way for quieting
students and bringing them to attention when the teacher
needs to speak to the class whole group.
can be purchased from any teacher supply store or hobby
store. To get the student's attention, blow into the
train whistle with two long blows followed by "Shhh,
Shhh". It sounds like a train pulling into the
train depot and the kids really love this strategy. I
have a train whistle and the kids comply quickly with this
quick, fun strategy.
a Teacher's Bell
Use an old fashioned teacher's
bell to get student's attention. Teach student's a
designated number of rings to quiet down or to transition
End of Day
During the last 3-5 minutes of the day students
can sometimes become unfocused, talkative, and generally off
task. One way to keep students quiet, focused, and in their
seats is to provide a reflective writing assignment at the end of the
day. Provide students with a writing journal where they can
record one fascinating or fun fact they learned from the day's
lessons. It is important to allow students an opportunity to
share their reflections. This can be done during down time the
following day or during a designated time for sharing. During
reflections, students may have a unique statement or reflection that
can be added to a class chart for everyone to see.
Keeping students organized is a
wonderful way to keep them focused and on task. By using a
binder and designated folders, students will no longer scramble to
locate misplaced papers. At the beginning of the school year ask parents to
submit a 1-1/2 to 2 inch binder, 6-portfolio folders, and a pencil
pouch. The next step in organizing
the binder is to provide students with address labels in order to
label their folders for the following subjects:
3. Language Arts
6. Science/Social Studies
folder is where students place their homework and any papers that
need to be signed or returned to school. The inside of the homework folder can be labeled "Return to
School" on the left pocket and "Keep at Home" on the
right pocket. Included in the front of the binder is loose
leaf paper and a pencil pouch to store important tools such as
pencils, erasers, sticky notes, paper clips, scissors, glue sticks,
etc. When students become organized, desks become
neat because every paper has a home in a specific folder. When students need to locate their
work, they know exactly where to look for it. It is important
to remind students of where their papers belong and to be firm about
students not storing loose paper in their desk. By providing
students with a binder and portfolio folders, students are able to
keep track of all their school papers and won't loose things nearly
as often. In order for students to truly be organized, the
binder should travel back and forth between school and home on a
Another way to keep students organized is to provide
a Student Work folder. Students keep their pending work in the
folder and it frees loose papers from being scattered across the top
of the desk. This is especially useful for students who can only
focus on one thing at a time.