Whether you're a new or experienced teacher, strategies for getting student attention are an important part of your classroom-management toolkit. In this presentation you’ll find 25 tips for quieting a noisy class.
25 Attention-Grabbing Tips
for the Classroom
from the Edutopia Community
Whether you’re a new or experienced teacher, strategies for getting student
attention are an important part of your classroom-management toolkit. In
this guide you’ll find 25 tips for quieting a noisy class.
These attention grabbers were contributed by educators from Edutopia’s
community. Join us at edutopia.org/community.
Tip: Project the timer onto a screen so students know
how much time is left.
"...there is a timer you can install on your computer. You can project it with
the projector, and it lets the students know how much time is left...before
they need to be quiet."
—Cristina, High School Algebra Teacher, TX
Tip: Assign timekeeping duties to a student.
"...the Timekeeper watches the clock at the bottom of his/her screen and
when that magic 5-minute moment arrives, is allowed to STAND ON HIS/HER
CHAIR and ring the chime. That child is then responsible for putting the chime
away and seeing that everyone logs out, pushes in keyboard & chair, and
lines up in time for the next group. It's a coveted privilege...Whenever
possible, outsource responsibility to the kids!"
I am the Timekeeper
Minute for Minute
Tip: Students stay late for every minute wasted.
"When it gets noisy, I get completely still and look at the clock. It usually
takes less than 10 seconds to shush everyone, because they don’t want to
—Ann Hyde, Special Education English Teacher, Anchorage, AK
Tip: You introduce the rhythm; students clap it back to
you in response.
"It takes 10 seconds to get 500 children quiet with echo clapping...think in
terms of long and short sounds, as in 'long, long, short, short, long' or 'short,
short, long, short, short, long.'"
Tip: Call out a word or phrase; students respond with
another word or phrase.
"The teacher asks 'Ready to rock?'...and the students reply 'Ready to
roll'...you have to teach it...and maintain it...but the students really loved it
and responded well. Good luck finding your voice and what works for you."
Call & Response
Tip: A variation on call & response is to teach students a
four-line rhyme for two sets of calls & responses.
"I say the first line, they respond with the second. I say the third, they say
the fourth. You can say anything, but I used, 'Oh my goodness, oh my dear,'
and they would say, 'Sassafras and ginger beer.' (I think they liked to say
—Grace Attanasio Shickler
Call & Response 2
Tip: A variation where students suggest silly two-part
words or phrases.
"As a group, come up with a two-part word or phrase together...'cool whip,'
'focus time,' 'red-robin yumm,' etc. The procedure is key: you will raise your
hand...and say the first part...every student will then immediately raise their
hand and respond with the second portion, and no further talking or
movement...it doesn't get stale because the words are silly."
Call & Response 3
Tip: Do something unexpected or humorous; show your
students your humanity.
"...I turn to my whiteboard and start talking to it as if it was a real person.
After a few seconds, the students notice and giggle about it a bit and then
they question me as to 'why are you talking to the board?' Then I explain that
it appeared to be the only thing listening to me...it actually gets a little laugh
for the kids (who think I've lost it!), but gets the room quiet so that I can
begin the lesson."
—Lydia Gonzalez, 3rd Year Teacher, 7th Grade Math
Humor is Human
Tip: Help students transition with a knock-knock joke.
"I love to laugh and love to make my 'little ones' laugh as well. So to get their
attention, I clap twice loud, and then say, 'Knock-knock,' after which they will
reply with, 'Who's there?' Then, I proceed to tell them a knock-knock joke
that also has the next activity we will do included in it."
—Ms. Dieujuste, 1st Grade Teacher, Miami, FL
Tip: Count down by turning off banks of lights in
"I turn off 1 bank of classroom lights as a warning then do the 2nd bank
when it's time to freeze and listen when things are finished."
—Michelle Murphy Ramey
Take It to the Bank
Tip: Use the cue, “Give me 5.”
"I don't want to waste more than a couple of seconds [when I] want their
attention. I use one of their cues, 'Give me 5' and raise my hand. It usually
takes a couple of seconds for all eyes, hands and mouths to be focused."
Cues & Clues
Tip: Use music to help close an activity and transition to
"I used a symphonic CD on the smartboard to do transitions. When it was
time to start wrapping it up, I'd start the CD and let the design show on the
screen that went with the music. They hurried to clean up so they could
watch the design..."
—Cynthia Hendrix Mederios, New Teacher & 3rd Grade Substitute
Tip: Use weird sounds for your timers to get student
"...set the sound for crickets chirping or a duck quacking...Part of the process
of becoming a teacher is finding what works for you, and teaching your
students those cues and the lines beyond which you will not go."
—Kathy Morlan, High School English Teacher
Tip: Use lights and music to signal one minute until the
"Buy one of those disco ball lamps and when kids see the lights going around
the room they have one minute to finish up and be ready for next activity.
Play a song -- when it starts, kids know to wrap up -- by time it's done, all
eyes on you -- also cool if it's the same song every time."
—Cary Nadzak, Middle School, Social Studies, SC
Tip: Teach a series of movements that students mimic,
e.g. hand on head, finger on nose, etc.
"Sometimes, in the noisiest of environments, you can get the attention of
students without saying a word...after one or two movements, someone
starts copying you, then it exponentially spreads throughout the room until
you have a silent group."
—K. Robinson, 4th Grade Teacher, CA
Tip: Make the sign for "Quiet Coyote" and wait for
students to model it back to you.
"...My thumb is pressed to my middle and ring fingers and all three fingers
pointing out, with the pinky and index fingers pointing up...I show that sign
and say 'Quiet Coyote' and they show it back to me, quietly. The first time I
work with a class, I explain that the coyote must be very quiet while it is
hunting, so that it won't scare away its next meal. This makes 'be quiet' into
a fun game."
—Dan Rzetelny Bernard
Tip: Adopt the strategy of their previous teacher.
"What I find helpful is to continue the technique used by the previous
—Kimberly Hyde, 6-8th Grade Teacher, Orleans, CA
Keep It Rolling
Tip: Set goals for group work and ask students to share
progress at intervals.
"I...find it helpful to set goals when they do group work and ask them to
share at intervals. This helps them to keep focused and work at a good pace."
—Steven Rookwood, 2nd Grade Teacher, Baltimore, MD
Tip: Establish zones with different allowed noise levels.
"I would try to assign a student a job of holding up a sign, which says 'level
one,' meaning for one to be quiet; however, this involves a lot of prepping.
Level 1: no talking
Level 2: whisper
Level 3: normal talking voice
Level 4: recess voice"
In the Zone
Tip: Find a secret code that reminds students how to
"SALAME - Stop And Look At ME is a 'secret' code word I teach my students
at the beginning of the year."
"SLANT. It is an acronym for Sit up. Lean Forward. Act like a third grader. No
talking. Track the teacher."
Tip: Implement a whole school approach.
"We have a standardized approach at our school. We start teaching it to the
children in the toddler classes."
—Mary Kate Land, 4-6th Grade Teacher
Start Them Early
Tip: Starting early helps students take ownership of
classroom procedures and routines.
"The person who needs the group's attention (sometimes it's a student)
sounds a tone and then waits. As each person notices, they put down
anything they are holding and turn toward the speaker. The speaker finishes
every message with 'thank you' and then the group goes back to work. I find
that if I wait, those who haven't noticed will get clued in by those who have.
It's much more effective when students tell one another, than if I were to tell
—Mary Kate Land, 4-6th Grade Teacher
Start Them Early 2
Tip: Students work together to decide which attention
grabbers will work; later, they test and iterate.
"...pose the question to your students...ask them to give evidence to support
their reasons...take time to have the class reflect on how the method
worked...By giving them the power to suggest, they become owners of the
Power of Suggestion
Tip: Give them opportunities to practice time
"Take the time to teach your students how to do things in your classroom...In
my class, the group work that students are given generally has two goals: the
curricular goal (finding and creating similes) and the group work goal
(keeping an eye on the clock and planning the work accordingly)."
—Kathy Morlan, High School English Teacher
Tip: Survey others, but find what works best for you.
"What works for one teacher, might not work for another...If you are able,
observe a few teachers this summer, or informally interview some colleagues
via email from your school site on what works for them when it comes to
getting the attention of students."
Find Your Thing
More tips from Edutopia and the web:
● Download Edutopia’s classroom guide: “Ten Tips for Classroom Management” (also available in
● Rebecca Alber’s post “Say What? Five Ways to Get Students to Listen” offers useful tips for
helping students develop their listening skills.
● “The Zen of Attention,” by teacher Stuart Grauer (from SmartBlog on Education), describes how a
Tibetan singing bowl can be used to focus student attention.
● Whatever strategies you use, learn about the importance of consistency in this Teaching Channel
video: “Attention Getting Signals: One Spot.”
Special thanks go to the educators
who contributed to this guide.
For more classroom-management tips and tactics, visit edutopia.org.