This won't be earth shattering insight into the issue, but, my favorite technique, among many, when I was a classroom teacher was proximity. Even now as I teach adult learners, I am a moving target during a lesson or presentation. Old habits I guess. I found that very effective with engaging students and keeping them in tune with what I was saying. They never knew when I was going to stand by their desk and throw a question to them.
My daughter's 1st grade teacher used the "Clap once if you can hear me. [most kids clap] Clap twice if you can hear me. [all kids clap, and stop talking] Clap tree times if you can hear me." technique. She says it at a normal speaking volume, so it may be that only a few hear her the first time, and more and more as the random clapping ensues. It's really effective, and can be easily modified to be "If you can hear me put your finger on your nose..."
And, yes, proximity is key. That was one of the very first things I learned while student teaching.
This is nothing earth shattering, but whenever I was teaching and students were obviously not listening, I would stop talking. As the old saying goes, "Silence is golden!" This actually worked because the class would look around to see what happened and if anyone else was talking, it often made that person suddenly uncomfortable. Then we would all return to the task at hand.
At our school we have agreed to simply raise your right hand, which is the universal signal for talking to quiet down, as in "stop, look, and listen". In a perfect world the children will respond by raising their right hand to the sky, which will prepare them for whatever message or discussion is coming from the teacher or adult. I don't think this method should be overused, but when teachers who generally have excellent control of their students use this technique, it is fast, effective, and a pleasure to behold. If a teacher has not established these routines on a daily/weekly basis, then this method quickly loses its power, which plays out in other parts of the building when children are not in the classroom. That is why it is imperative for everyone to agree to these methods.
I work with K-2 students, and have a little rhyme I use from time to time that works like a charm. When the class is getting a bit unruly (especially when sitting on the floor), I will stop and say:
"I'm closing my eyes and counting to three... and when I open them I will...everyone sitting quietly... 1....2....3!" and when I "open" my eyes I act astonished and say "That is SO magical! Thank you!" and we get back to work.
The children usually work together quickly to get anyone not paying attention to snap to before I get to three. BTW, obviously I don't quite shut my eyes all the way, just in case! As others have mentioned, it can't be "overused" or it will lose it effect.
As far as whispering goes, perhaps the most effective Kgn teacher in our district used this technique, which I thought was so cool. When his students were just not listening, for whatever reason, and he got somewhat frustrated, he would take out a little stuffed animal, perhaps a hand puppet, and start talking to it in the sweetest yet concerned voice and ask the stuffed animal for help and advice as to what to do. Perfect methodology, not a decibel raised. Once attention was gained, the animal would then discuss his concerns with the children, thus starting a conversation among the class. Cannot overuse this method, but adorable and effective (for five year olds..)
As a middle school teacher, I too try to use a variety of techniques to keep them on their toes. I try not to utilize just one method throughout the day. I use bells, timers, the lights, clapping, verbal count down, hand signaling (counting up to five), and even subtle whistling. Some of my more novelty items are my talking Yoda doll, fake phone call, and yes even Jolly Ranchers from time to time.
To be quite honest it depends on the age group that I am teaching. Some things that I have done over the years have been, whisper accompanied by eye contact and walking around the room (most effective technique), sing a silly song, sing a song that is routinely done during transitioning to get their attention, invitation to the students that are talking at that time to share, and last but not least, turn off the lights and wait patiently (which has been a universal trend at some schools).
I was working with several small groups of teachers in a large technology workshop where every teacher was getting a laptop, learning to set it up, and participating in one of our first hardware give aways/learn to telecommunicate program.
Each instructor had an helper and in this case a college professor had a tiny, petite K12 teacher to assist him.
You can imagine the bubbling of conversation as boxes were thrown open and parts began to collect on the table top. As instructors we had a structure to our presentations and setup of equipment for the first time and the college professor was getting a bit frustrated with the hub bub.
All of a sudden his tiny, petite helper, a kindergarten teacher, boomed, "Everyone put your hands on your head." Each K12 teacher complied and the college professor looked on in amazement as they all looked to her for instruction...all eyes and ears were on her as she turned the group over to the surprised college instructor.
I guess my point is that before you can get kids to listen, you have to get their attention. ;-)
I have a small windchime hanging in the front of the class. When they hear the tinkling, they hold their hands up and show that they are ready to listen.
I try to be as brief as possible...not one of those types that likes the sound of my own voice...so if they forget or ask for directions again, I always remind them to ask a friend for help.
There are three little tricks I use in my second grade to get the class to listen. The first one is the whisper technique which many of you mentioned. Another technique is to say, "Listen, I hear something!" This works for a while until the kids catch on that it is a listening ploy! The third technique is to ring a bell. This may be old school but it really, really works. It also works better than blowing a whistle!
It can be hard with high schoolers - I am pretty small and my voice blends right into the mix of 35 of them talking at once. What I do is just start looking at the clock on the wall. I am counting the seconds it takes for them to get quiet. However many seconds it takes for them to get silent is the amount of time they stay after the bell rings. This is VERY effective! After a couple of times, they know the drill and all it takes is for me to go silent and look at the clock and they settle right down! And when they don't, it's kind of amusing to hear them whine about how they are going to be late for the next class or the bus! (they never are unless they waste their time in the halls!) Sure beats yelling at the top of my lungs repeatedly!
When dealing with preschool and younger, and sometimes with my older child, when I want them to stop playing and cooperate or listen, I ask them, "do you want me to help or do you want to do it by yourself?" This is a very important question to them and I can say that nearly 100% of the time they will stop and cooperate without arguement when you ask them this, because they do want you to help them, they always want you to be with them, they do not want you to leave it to them to do for them selves until they get to the stage when they are super independent, then they will do without arguement themselves.
Last year was my first teaching year. I teach art to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The thing that worked best for me was to stop talking and wait for students to calm down. The students would actually monitor each other and themselves. If some students would not stop talking, others would tell them that I was waiting.
As a kindergarten teacher, I use one technique to get their attention and a variety of other techniques to keep it. First, I clap, one... two... one, two, three and whisper, stop (hands are empty), look, and listen. To keep my classes attention I might use proximity, roaming, or whispering techniques. When I read to my class, I choose not to sit in a chair or rocker, instead I sit on the rug near them. When possible I like to be at their eye level. These are a few techniques that have worked for me. I am looking forward to learning more ways to getting and keeping my students attention.
When I taught upper el students, whispering was quite effective. Sometimes I just moved my lips and let them think I was talking. It doesn't work if overused, but on an occasional basis it worked.
Since I am very soft-spoken, I also found a used portable microphone (clip on, speaker in the back of the room) for when I worked with the whole class on projects - or anything with lots of interaction. I'd actually whisper "psst!" into the microphone and they'd get quiet. Don't know why it worked, but it did..
I think being interesting is a good start. IStudents love lessons that are exciting and lively. I do to! Another trick is to talk at different volumes. That has worked for me. I also like to let them speak. If they know there is an opportunity to join in, then they need to pay attention to what is being said, especially if you validate their responses and are truly interested in what they have to say.
After years in the elementary and middle school classroom, a former student wrote about having me as his 3rd grade and middle school teacher. He wrote, "When she wanted our attention, she would fold her arms and sit back on her stool and say, 'I am a very patient woman'". I love to hear feedback after years and years of teaching from my student as to what worked.
The broken record technique works wonderfully. If students aren't listening or continue to say but but but.......
I just keep repeating over and over again the same thing and they get tired of it and "shut up" quiet. (Can't say shut up to kids) I also count down from 3 or turn the light off. Can't count up, because you can keep counting 4, 5 etc.
In middle school, call and response quiet signals are effective. For example, I might say, "...and a hush fell over the crowd!" the students respond by saying "HUSH", and are silent. Another signal is "When I say peace, you say quiet, peace!" and the students say "Quiet". It usually takes no more than 2 or 3 repetitions of "peace, quiet" to gain students' attention.
I often play a type of music that my high school students are unfamiliar with such as calypso or tribal. In my speech class we discuss the importance of active listening and often neglect teaching students the value of listening for pleasure. I use this as a way to address both forms of listening.
I stop talking, wait, and look at the class. Once kids realize I'm standing there and listening to what they are saying, it becomes quiet very quickly.
Sometimes if it is just two kids talking, and tell them I will wait for them to finish their conversation. Since the entire room is now listening, the students usually stop talking immediately!!!
This sounds so corny, but for Kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd, I put one finger over my lips, and a 'peace' sign in the air for 'peace and quiet'. It works pretty well for them. For the 3rd and 4th grade clases, all I have to do is whisper and they want to be in on the 'conspiracy' so they get quiet very quickly.
I teach fifth grade, and I usually say, "If you can hear my voice, clap once..." I usually say it two more times. The kids like clapping so it engages them while getting them quiet. I never raise my voice, and they listen attentively. I've done this in an entire gymnasium of children ages 3rd-6th grade. It worked like a charm!
When I taught 2nd grade, I hung magnetic letters on my board. The letters spelled - LISTEN. When the students wouldn't listen I would take one magnetic letter down at a time.
At the end of the day, I would see how many letters were left. I would then make a paper chain with links. If there were 3 letters left, I would add three links to the paper chain.
Once the paper chain hit the floor (from the ceiling) I would bring them in a treat or something nice.
Keep in mind, I worked at an Indian Reservation, those kiddos were VERY extrinsically motivated. They loved being rewarded with their hard work.
Now I teach 6th graders in a public school setting. I just hold up 3 fingers and expect them to be quiet in 3 seconds. If they don't catch on, I walk over to the student(s) causing the problem or talking and ask them to pay attention.
My child's 5th grade teacher sent home a sheet and she points to a sign in her classroom with SLANT
|S||Sit up (good posture keeps you alert)|
|L||Lean forward (this shows interest to your speaker)|
|A||Ask questions (do this by raising your hand, putting the questions in your notes, and to yourself)|
|N||Nod your head (or else shake your head, or show your understanding or confusion in some other way)|
|T||Track your speaker (keep your eye on the speaker to take in important non-verbal clues and to stay alert and interested)|
I use several methods as well. One of them is to stop talking. It will take about 30 seconds for all the students to realize that they need to pay attention. I have a classroom store that opens every other week. I walk around with a handful of fake coins in my pocket and hand them out to those who are paying attention. I also give table points to the tables who are on task. I also walk up to the student talking and touch them on the shoulder as I continue to talk. "One, two, three look at me" has also worked for me.
This doesn't necessarily refer to quieting down a class, but if I ever want my students to really pay attention or listen to a concept or piece of material trying to teach I say, "Listen, I have a secret" "But you can't tell anyone it, because it is a big secret". "You promise not to tell anyone ?" Once there is some agreement not to share my secret I provide them the message. For example "All colors and numbers are adjectives". Obviously, this is not something that can overused, but it is amazing how well it works when you really need something to sink in !......
How do you get kids to listen?
If only we could get them to listen all the time. Heres what I have tried
1. Paying them Yes- I have a store in my classroom which is high motivational to all students- If they follow directions, complete assignments and stay focused they can earn computer cash (I am a computer teacher).
2. I find a count down system- works well with first trough third graders-- I count down from 5, by three their hands are in their laps and they are not talking- but 1 they are looking at me. I wait till I have all eyes balls on me
3. A fellow teacher at my school always as her kids listening and perfect! She follows this "power teaching" model- If you you tube it- there are many examples- It really does get their attention- and makes them listen.
It just might take a while to get used to
-here a you tube link
I use several different ways with my middle school students when I need them to refocus and listen, whether it be from small group activity or some off task behavior. One is putting my hand up and silently put one finger down at a time. Students know that if I count up, they will get extra homework or lose a class point. Another is the classic, "if you har me clap once....", usually very quietly said. Proximity works well with redirecting off task behavior.
I teach 5th grade, and I find that positive reinforcement works REALLY well. It can be something as easy as writing their name on the board under the words "Nice Job" or just saying something like, "I like the way Johnny is sitting quietly, thank you Jane for listening, etc.." I usually only need to write or say 3-4 names and the whole class is ready to listen.
I teach first grade and I also use the positive reinforcement techniques. I give them team points or pass by their desk and say to a student "I like the way you are staying on task" or If my students are engage on an activity that requires them to collaborate, I ring an electronic bell and acknowledge several students by name for quickly responding to the signal. Once I stop ringing the bell I say "Put your hands on your shoulders, above your head, on the table, etc."
The mains things needed to get students to listen all have to do with good teaching. Start with a good hook, make the lesson interactive and student centered, make the lesson relevant and make sure students have a means to relate to the lesson. Have a positive, freindly, energetic, supportive nature with a decent sense of humor and your on your way.
I like your comment about starting with a good hook and making the lesson interactive and student-centered. My experience with teaching supports your idea that making the lesson relevant for students increases their interest in listening.
Have you looked at the interactives index Thinkfinity offers to see which activities may correlate with your good teaching habit of using lessons with hands-on learning?
Thanks for your valuable insights.
Yes, that's the first place I visited when I was introduced to Thinkfinity. There are 82 interactives across all science disciplines, I just wish there were 82 for chemistry alone. But of course I wish there were more interactives for each specific science discipline/field as well.
I agree with Lynn. If you stop talking suddenly everyone is curious about why you are not speaking. As an elementary school librarian, I also would lower my voice almost to a whisper. Another technique, I used was to teach the students some beginning American sign language. When I started to sign, both eyes and ears were attuned to me. they always wanted to learn more and it became an opportunity to learn both content and another language.
I use the word, "Listen" in a calm loud enough voice. They usually stop at the end of the sentence they are speaking to listen. I had a bad habit of saying "Listen up, guys" when I first started teaching. I even use this technique with other children, not in my class and away from the classroom.
I switch techniques frequently with my middle schoolers to keep them from becoming immune to just one strategy.
I use the "if you can hear me clap once...if you can hear me clap twice....clap three times."
I also simply clap out a rhythm and kids will echo that rhythm. By about the third time everyone in the room is focused and participating (occasionally there is the wise guy who tries to continue with the clapping) but otherwise it is effective.
I also use the SmartBoard timer. When the buzzer rings, it's time to focus and listen.
I will also change my voice as I speak and move around the room. you know...British accent, Yoda-speak, deep voice, high squeaky voice. (yeah, I'm a little crazy sometimes)
And last but not least, I will use a song as a timer for an activity (I use iTunes. Michael Jackson is popular and "safe"). When the song stops, it's time to focus and listen.