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Best (and Worst) Attention Getters for Teaching Kids

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Author/Source: Mimi Bullock

Topic: Classroon Control

Teaching kids is kind of an art form. So how do you keep their attention without pulling your hair out? Try these attention getters!

Teaching kids is kind of an art form, isn’t it? My hat is off to all the professional educators out there. You guys rock! However, the rest of us who don’t have educational backgrounds can find ourselves in a classroom that seems out of control. We want to serve God, the kids, and the church, but the kiddos haven’t gotten the message. What’s the difference between a hair-pulling experience and one that’s leaves you feeling blessed? Probably the attention getters! Even if children aren’t jumping up and down, poking one another, or talking over you, they can lose focus and totally tune you out. I recommend that you follow the 10 to 2 rule, (that’s 10 minutes of teaching with a 2 minute interval of interaction like a Q&A or an activity) and a pack of attention getters. In my eighteen years of experience, these ideas have never let me down.

The Good Attention Getters

  1. Ring a bell: When you need to snap kids to attention, ring a bell. Here’s the trick, even though the bell is used to correct bad behavior, praise someone who is doing good. So it’s ring the bell to stop the bad behavior and put some positive attention on a kid who is doing good.
  2. Try a callout: I love call backs and call outs! It’s really just two sentences, the teacher says the first one and the kids say the second. Some examples are as follows: Teacher–“All set?” Students–“You bet!” or “Tootsie Roll, lollipop.” Students–“We’ve been talking, now lets stop!”
  3. Use “quiet spray.” This is simply a bottle of water in an empty Windex spray bottle. Tape a sign on the front and back that says, “Quiet Spray.” If children start talking, say, “Uh-oh. Looks like I need my Quiet Spray.”
  4. Drop a paper wad: Wad up a sheet of paper and hold it over your head. Keep holding it until everyone is quiet. Don’t say anything; just watch the class. Drop the paper and say, “Can you hear that?” Keep dropping until you hear the paper land on the floor.
  5. Snap or clap: Snap your fingers or clap your hands in a musical pattern. Keep going until everyone is clapping or snapping along with you, then resume your story or teaching.
  6. Do a countdown: Raise your hand above your head and show your fingers. Start counting down, 5-4-3-2-1. If they aren’t quiet, repeat the countdown until they are.

Avoid these Attention Getters

  1. Air horns: Kids with PTSD (and there are many that have this from abuse) can have a negative response to the sharp, sudden sound this produces.
  2. Calling kids by name: Never call out a kid by name unless he is in imminent danger. Call a volunteer instead.
  3. Shouting or screaming: If you shout or scream at the children, you lose credibility with them. It’s better to keep quiet than lose it on a kid. If you ever feel this frustrated take some time off or ask for help.
  4. Manhandling a child: Never ever manhandle a kid. No picking them up and moving them period. For a stubborn child who won’t go to the quiet chair or respond, call a parent or the children’s director.

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