Getting a group of kids to focus is full of variables — are they excited for lunch or recess? Tired after a long week? Or maybe there’s a leader in the group who isn’t the best listener?
Attention-getters are an opportunity to build relationships and mutual respect. Here are a few fun and playful exercises adults can experiment with:
What are attention getters?
Attention getters are any sound or body movement that signal an action for a group. Common signals may be a whistle, clapping, two fingers raised, or a verbal cue. Having a clear set of signals is critical when working with groups of kids.
Keep in mind
- Capturing and keeping attention and focus is a skill for all youth workers and teachers to develop and prioritize.
- Attention getters and signals should enable you to be more effective, save time, connect with kids in a fun way, and engage students more effectively.
- Attention getters can be changed up and designed to match curricula or lessons — just make sure the expectations about what happens in response to a signal remain consistent.
- Keep offering the signal until you get the desired response.
- Be comfortable being silly, energized, and animated when appropriate.
- Match the signal to the environment. Know when to use louder sounds and animated movement, or quieter signals and responses.
- Stay consistent with the expectation of the signal. If the adult begins to talk with only half of the group following along in a focused way, students will be less likely to follow when the signal is given at a future time. Kids catch on quickly.
- Use phrases from popular culture — for example, when the teacher says “Spongebob,” students respond with “Squarepants.” For older kids, try “School Name” / “Mascot.”
To try this week
- Share the video.
- Pick 2-3 attention getters to try out this week.
- Get feedback from other staff and determine which attention getters and signals your school should incorporate every day.