Turn on disco and do a funny dance. Bang on pots and pans. And don’t forget the bullhorn.
No, really, seriously…well, not completely seriously…we are talking about working with kids; and, we all know that being serious all of the time with kids just doesn’t work. But there are times that you really need to get your group of kids to stop what they are doing and listen to you.
[For more tips in getting the attention of your child, check out this post "12 Ways To Get Your Child's Attention."]
There are so many ways to get the attention of kids in a group setting. Here are some of my favorites…
- Clap a Pattern. Clap slowly twice and then clap fast three times. The students are to stop what they are doing and repeat the pattern. If necessary, do it again until all children have responded and are quiet. You may want to vary the pattern.
- Clap If You Can Hear Me. Say, in a normal tone of voice, “Clap once if you can hear me.” Those listening will quiet down and clap one time. Then say, “Clap twice if you can hear me.” More children respond with two claps. Finally say, “Clap three times if you can hear me.”
- Do What I’m Doing. Do an action like touching your nose or ear and quietly say, “If you hear my voice, do what I’m doing.” Repeat this several times. As children hear, they will begin repeating the action, other children notice and stop making noise so they know what’s going on. You can also choose an action like snapping your fingers or winking.
- 1, 2, 3 Eyes On Me. Say “1, 2, 3, eyes on me” and have the children respond immediately in a loud voice, “1, 2, eyes on you” with their faces turned toward you and looking at your eyes.
- Lights Off/Lights On. Turn the lights off and on quickly a couple of times.
- Use a Target Word. Choose a word – something connected with what you are learning; or, something silly like “salami” or “meatballs”. Instruct the children to stop, look and for directions whenever you say the word.
- Finish the Phrase. Choose a word or phrase that you can say the first half of and kids can respond with the last half. For example, you say “Ava” and the kids say “lanche”; or, you say “Denver” and the kids say “Broncos”. Recently, I have used these two examples with great success: you say “salami” and the kids say “sandwich”; or, you say “kung pao” and the kids say “chicken”. The unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary aspects of these two examples added to the fun and effectiveness.
- Something Silly. Do something very wacky or talk in a unique voice, the kids will tune right in. You have to be willing to embarrass yourself a little bit.
- Teacher Says. Use, “Teacher Says,” like “Simon Says.” For example, “Teacher says, touch your nose,” “Clap once,” or “Teacher says, look at me.”
- 1, 2, 3, Freeze. To play: explain to the group that every time you say “1,2,3 Freeze”-they are frozen and can not move at all until you say “Un-freeze”. Make sure they understand that from now on-whenever they are with you, they are playing this game. Use this throughout your time – sometimes even when you don’t need it. Then when you really do need it-they will respond quickly.
In creating that special way to get a child’s attention, there are a couple of thoughts that might help. First, use a signal that requires a response – this will help kids to break their focus from what they were engaged in and shift it to you. Also, use a signal that will actually get their attention. If the crowd is chaotic, the signal must break through the noise (while being careful not to yell or seem angry – it is difficult to lead kids on a spiritual journey after an angry episode or when there is a lot of tension in the room).
With any of these ideas, it is important to teach the children the response that is expected. Keep in mind the age of the kids you are working with. And, establish the rules and expectations early on and practice so that the kids understand how things work.
What have you found that works for getting your group’s attention? You can leave a comment below.
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