Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tricks of the Trade Thursday: Transitions and Attention Signals

It's time for another Tricks of the Trade Thursday!
Last week, Jessica and I had a great kick off to our brand new linky.  Thanks again to everyone who linked up.  If you missed last week's party, that's okay, just be sure not to miss the fun today!

Here's the theme for this week:
Let me just say that I am super pumped that these is our theme.  As a second year teacher who is having some trouble getting the hang of a rowdy class, I could use some new tricks of the trade to help with transitions and getting students' attention.

That being said, I do have some things that are working well for me.  They are certainly not all original, but let's just say they are oldies, but goodies.  Who needs to reinvent the wheel?

So, without further ado, here are my tricks of the trade.
Give Me Five
This is a well-known attention-getter that I decided to try out last year, my first year.  It worked so well that I decided to keep using it.  I teach the students to "Give Me Five" first thing after the parents leave on the first day of school.  I explain what each of the five fingers mean and have them practice several times.  I set the expectation that the students must "Give Me Five" right away when they hear me say it or when they see me holding up my five.  I love using the silent signal because it shows me who is really paying attention.  The kids who were focused, immediately get quiet and hold up their fives.  The others keep talking until they notice the room has gotten quiet.  I love that holding up a hand can get that kind of response.
Also, since my chatty kids don't always hear me when I say "Give Me Five," I just spontaneously invented another version of this signal.  It's pretty simple, just CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, FIVE.  If the kids hear me clap 4 times, they are to join me in the clapping and then quickly hold up their Five.  My kinesthetic boys like this a lot.

Of course, as the year goes on, my kids get sloppy with their fives, so I have to routinely reinforce that it does not mean to get quiet.  It also means to look, listen, sit up straight, and to put things down.  When the kids get quiet but don't look, I just say, "Eyes" and that usually gets them the rest of the way to paying attention.
Call and Response
I know that this attention getter is a popular one.  I discovered it during student teaching.  Basically, I call out a key word or words and the kids have to respond accordingly and then get quiet.  The version of this that I am currently using is:
  • Teacher- "Macaroni and cheese..."
  • Students- "Everybody Freeze."
I have also used "Peanut butter...Jelly," "Cup...cake," "Ba da ba ba ba...I'm lovin it," and a few others.  The kids love these because they are fresh, fun, and really grab everyone's attention.  I remember using a few of these signals at a museum last year for a field trip.  The guides just smiled or looked confused.  I guess no one expects anyone to randomly yell, "PEANUT BUTTER..."   Haha

I picked up this idea from Brittany during the Hall Pass Linky awhile back, so thanks to her for the help.

This year my kiddos have had a hard time listening to multiple instructions at once.  As soon as they hear the first thing, they are raring to go.  To help with this problem, I instituted the "GO" signal.  Now, whenever I give multi-step instructions, I expect my kids to freeze and listen until I say "GO!"  Then, and only then can they move and begin to follow the directions.  This has been so effective that sometimes when I forget to say "GO," I find kids frozen in place waiting for the signal.  Hehehe.
Stop Time
When my whole class gets chatty and I can't give just one or two kids a consequence, I institute Stop Time.  Stop Time is lost time off of recess.  If I ever have to stop teaching because the kids aren't listening or they don't get quiet when I give one of the signals, then I just walk up to the board and put a tally under the heading Stop Time.  The kids who notice immediately grown and start urging the talkers to stop and listen.  Yes, I take advantage of peer pressure.  :-)

The reason the kids hate stop time so much is because when that recess bell rings, they know that instead of going right out, they have to put their heads down and sit silently for however many minutes of stop time they have accrued.  Of course, I know recess is important and I never let Stop Time get beyond 3 minutes or so, but taking away what the kids love most has proven to be effective at motivating them to listen and not waste time.

Another way that I manage transitions is by timing the students.  Jessica gave me the idea, so you can read more about it on her post.  I carry around a little digital timer either in my pocket or clipped to my belt.  Whenever it's time for a transition, I simply turn the timer on and wait until the kids are finished getting ready for the next activity before turning it off.  I also occasionally turn it on if the whole class gets chatty.  Once the kids hear the beep of the timer, they know it's time to stop talking and get moving to do what they are supposed to be doing.

To make the timer even more motivating, I post the daily transition time on the board at the end of the day.  If the kids beat the previous day's time, I give the class a marble.  If they don't, then they try again tomorrow.  

One warning/confession I must give is that this does not work well if you are not careful and consistent.  I will admit that there have been several days when I either forget to time or I look down and see that we have spent 2 hr. 35 min. 27 sec. transitioning because Miss Hoffman forgot to turn the timer off.  Oops.  

Those are the reasons I only break out the timer during weeks when the kids are super antsy/chatty.  I don't want them to get desensitized to it and I can't always keep track of timing everything.  Still, when used, it is a very effective motivator.

Those are my tricks of the trade for getting students' attention and helping transitions run smoothly.  

Be sure to stop by to read Jessica's post.  She has some great ideas!  
Joy in the Journey

Then, be sure to grab the button and link up to share your tricks of the trade.  

I can't wait to hear some new ideas!
P.S. Anyone who links up will be entered to WIN 3 items of their choice from Jessica's store!


  1. I think I will try the Give Me Five strategy using the clapping. My class sometimes needs something with some noise to get their attention. I'm your newest follower and I linked up too.

    Third Grade Galore

  2. I have used the "stop time" with my kids too when most of the class is, as I tell them, "wasting our time." I am going to need to try the "Call Response" strategy next year.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  3. I found you through Third Grade Galore. Great link-up!

    You are now 1 closer to a 100.

    Digital: Divide & Conquer