They don’t need to count down from three. They don’t need to raise their hand in the air. They don’t even need to utter a word. After years – maybe decades – of working with children, they have developed telepathic powers. Like some kind of Jedi knight wielding mind tricks, such teachers have only to think at a child, and said child will immediately stop sharpening its pencil. Or sawing its rubber in half with a ruler. Or flicking its sawn-in-half rubber at an enemy across the table.
And not only will said child stop doing said things, but it will also stop talking, turn its entire attention (and its face) towards the teacher, and listen.
I have not worked out how to get kids to do this yet.
Possibly I am just not scary enough. Or possibly I have not been a teacher long enough. Either way, I can’t do it, and I have a ‘lively’ (teacher code for ‘headache-inducing’) class, and ‘3… 2… 1…’ just doesn’t cut it at 3:15 on a Friday afternoon when three separate children are crying for three separate reasons and someone’s just spilt an entire tub of poster paint on the newly cleaned carpet.
So, what to do?
Class Stoppers. That’s what to do.
‘Class Stoppers’ (also known as ‘Attention Getters’) are catchy little call-and-response lines. The teacher calls our something recognisable over the general noise of the class (for example, “Chitty-Chitty!”) and the class stop whatever they are doing to yell out the appropriate response (in this case, “Bang-Bang!”)
I have found this to be absolutely invaluable in a noisy classroom. It works. It actually works. And I think it works for three reasons:
1. It’s interactive. I’m not asking the kids to be passive and quiet immediately – I’m asking them to actively shout out! That’s pretty appealing. Even to a child who is thoroughly engaged in a bit of rubber flickage.
2. It stops kids in their tracks. By joining in the response, they have broken off any conversation they were having before the teacher called out.
3. It’s silly. Who doesn’t love shouting out quotes from Harry Potter in the middle of a Maths lesson?!
I’ve put together a colourful little PDF freebie of the Class Stoppers I use in my class. You can download it here:
If you use any of them, please let me know – I’d love to hear your experiences. And if you have any good ideas for new ones, my class and I are always interested!