What was that?! The bark of a dog? The whinny of a horse? The unmistakable “reeeep, reeeep” of crickets in the classroom? (Definitely not after you have just posed a question!) All of these are included in the plethora of ways you can alert your students that you want their attention.
What should be used to signal students? Any type of animal call or small percussion instrument – even the clap of a hand is easily employed as a student signal. There are literally scads of electronic sound files that could effortlessly be utilized in the classroom as attention alerts as well.
Why use sounds to signal students? Besides being novel, unique, and of high interest to students, audio sound signals for students are an essential classroom management tool. This strategy allows the teacher to gain students’ attention whenever he or she needs it. Signals are also more efficient and respectful than yelling or calling out “Hey, kids”, using too much talk to ask for students’ attention, or turning the room lights on and off. Keep these tips in mind for using signals successfully:
Model how students should respond to signals for attention. Teach them exactly how the signal and their response to it will look and sound, and give them plenty of practice.
Expecting immediate silence may be unrealistic. People have a natural need to get to a stopping point in their conversation or work (5-10 seconds should do it).
Don’t start speaking before everyone is silent. Waiting to speak lets students know that everyone is expected to respond to the signal promptly – no exceptions, no excuses.
Don’t repeat the signal if it doesn’t get students’ attention the first time. Repeating the signal teaches students that they don’t have to focus and give you their attention right away—they can wait for the second or third repetition before they comply.
Be consistent when using established signals, or the signals will lose their power. A teacher could easily lose credibility as students will wonder if you really mean what you say and say what you mean.
Whether a clap rhythm, a drum, a chime, a rain stick, or a bird call, signaling your students and effectively gaining their attention and focus can be as easy as tying a shoelace. It takes practice, but once this simple and inexpensive routine is mastered it works every time! To learn more about signals, how to use them, and how to teach them, read “Signals for Quiet”, or watch Caltha Crowe in action using signals with a third grade class.