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Non-verbal or verbal cues to focus class


Senior Member
Hi Everyone!

I'm in my second week of student teaching, and I have little experience. The thing I'm having a difficult time of is getting the attention of the class. The teacher has great control over the class without having to use any gimmicks or tricks or motivational techniques, yet I can't seem to command control over the class. What can I try to get them to line up after P.E./recess/lunch while outside? What can I do to get them to be quiet in the classroom? Right now, I feel like I am yelling or trying to talk over them, and it is definately NOT what I am striving to do. Anyone have any suggestions???

been there

Feel for you

It is hard to be starting out, but (if teaching is your passion) hang in there and it does get better.

You say you are in your second week of student teaching. Your cooperating teacher is available to teach you her tricks. Have you spoken with her about this?

If she's not very helpful, I would watch her closely to see what she does in each situation, then see if this works for you.

In addition, you should get a copy of Harry Wong's book, The First Days of School. This is considered a classic, and it will help you a lot.

Good luck to you!


Senior Member

Your cooperating teacher should be giving you advice too. What grade are you teaching? Are they sitting in rows or groups? I have always used table points to get them to be quiet, ready to work or to follow directions. I have a chart at the front of the room. On it I list the group of tables-table 1, table 2 etc. (I have used color names before too) Then any time I want them quiet, I mark a tally mark beside the table who is quiet 1st, maybe even 2nd too. I thank them for being quiet or following directions as I mark it. At the end of the week the table with the most tallies earns a treat. I give them to them on Friday to eat in class or take home. It really makes the others think when they see not all students are receiving and eating a treat. After they catch on, all I have to do is turn around and pick up the marker (dry erase on a small, laminated chart) and they are quiet or working or whatever I just told them to do.
For recess, if they don't want to line up and be quiet on time they can spend their next recess by practicing lining up until they get it right. I wouldn't let them have recess the next day, they would be "practicing" instead. They'll catch on soon. The kids who do behave will use their peer pressure which helps you. I wouldn't yell if I was use. Remain giving directions in a calm voice. Be consistent and don't let them get away with this behavior anymore. You might like to warn them before you do this. But then follow through so they understand you mean what you say.


Senior Member
be quiet/get attention

this all depends on what works with your kids and your style

*have kids in groups--competition for first group to be ready to go for each subject--that group gets a point--top point getters for week get a treat (whatever that may be)
*i count to 5 --sometimes fast, sometimes slow depending on if they are not responding or what directions i've given (i usually give the direction so they can start following it before i even start counting---if i haven't give a direction, it just means be quiet by the time i get to 5....anyway, if i get to 5 and they aren't ready/quiet, i keep counting and they owe me a minute for each number over 5. (i teach 6th.)
*a friend of mine has a delicate "tinkling" windchime/mobile hanging from the ceiling, and she jangles it to get her students' attention---VERY effective.



I've learned to teach a couple of poems. The students know when I start it, they are to clean up and return to their desks, saying it with me. Find longer ones so they have time to get back to their seats.

I've done a "Show me you're ready!" in line. We sit down and try again if they are not: Quiet, facing forward, hands to their side, and standing right behind the person in front of them (making a straight line). They know these four things have to be done to show they are indeed, "ready." It's a quick way to get them back in order in the hallway, too.


Senior Member
Getting attention

It's hard when you're a student teacher because sometimes kids don't see you as an authority figure. Hopefully youre CT will help with that.

When my students line up, we won't go anywhere until it's a straight line, and they're silent. This really works at lunch. I've also made them turn around and practice walking silently.

I use a bell to get my students' attention when they're working. They know to freeze when they hear the bell.


Full Member
Attention Getters

Some of my favorites:

Say "Goodness gracious" and they respond "Great balls of fire"

Ring bell for a VIM... Very Important Message... kids freeze, turn eyes to me and put hands on head. I time at first and challenge them to quiet more quickly each time. We average about 3 seconds now.

Sing "ba da bum ba ta" (beginning of the McDonalds' jingle) and they respond "I'm lovin' it!"

Clap pattern, they repeat, say "Stop (hold hand up to signal a stop), Look (point at my eyes) and Listen (point to my ears), Close your mouths (hand signal to close mouth) and freeze.

I have a very challenging inner city second grade class. They respond to all of these and more. Nothing brilliant here... just some tried and true suggestions. Good luck!


Junior Member
one more

I say, "If you hear my voice, clap your hands one time." The students clap once. You can keep going until everybody is responding. Ex: "If you hear my voice...

...clap your hands two times
...snap your fingers three times
...pat your head one time

After everyone is complying, use the same phrase to make a purposeful request such as,

...line up quietly
...go back to your seat

I've found this doesn't require a lot of training and it works with all kinds of students.


line up song

Learned this song for younger grades from another teacher. To the tune of the Oscar Myer Weiner song, I sing it very softly and all soon quiets down:

I wish I had a nice and quiet line
That would make me really want to clap, clap, clap
Cause if I had a nice and quiet line
We'd be gone in just about a snap


Junior Member
Student teaching

Just remember that student teaching is really nothing at all like when you have your own class.... the students know you are learning and will try to challenge and test you. Your cooperating teacher should be helping you and have a talk with the class about their behavior when you are teaching.
Just hang in there! Student teaching can be tough at times but you will get through it and love it even more when you finally do have your own class!!!

Ima Teacher

Senior Member
I raise my right hand and say, "May I have your attention, please." I use a loud, but not screaming, voice. I keep my hand raised until everyone is quiet. Typically they're all quiet in 5 seconds or less. If they're being rowdy and DON'T get quiet after 5 seconds, I say, "May I have your attention, please." THEN I start counting seconds--to myself. I record these points and take them off their next "fun" activity.


Junior Member
Good question

A few months ago I was Student Teaching and the same thing happened to me with class behavoir. I asked my CT what her secret was and she told me that I couldn't be their friends. It sounds like you have a case of Bad Cop (CT) and Good Cop (ST) going on. Gotta be a toughy.

My advice is to develop a stare. When a child misbehaves, stop what you are doing and stare at the child for about 2-3 seconds. Never break the stare until the child gets back on task. If he he/she has done something disruptive give the child a warning and give the stare. If he continues the behavoir immediately make the child change his card.

My CT didn't give me any advise on any thing. When I would ask for assistance, she would tell me it was my problem and to work my way out of it. At the time, I hated her for treating me like this but now I understand her reasoning and I have tougher skin.

After graduation, I started subbing and I still had problems with Classroom Management. I bought several books on the subject and everything my CT did in the classroom was straight out of the textbook. So, it does work.


Senior Member
I'm in the same boat you are....

and there are some great ideas in this thread. I'm going to use quite a few of them. I was just talking to my Mentor Teacher about this just yesterday.
My class is also taking advantage of my kind & forgiving nature. She suggested that we have line-walking practice. During recess. Get them lined up and have them walk around and around and around. Our recess only last about 15-20 minutes, so after 5 mins. start letting the good ones go play. One at a time. Before too long you're left with the line trouble makers still walking around and around. And then what do ya know? Its time to go inside. She swears it works every time.

Another trick she has for inside is to say " 1, 2, 3, eyes on me" Then the students stop what they're doing, look at her and say "1,2, eyes on you"

I never try to talk over my class. I do the opposite, I let my voice get quieter and quieter. If they miss the instructions that would've been to their benefit, then they listen better next time.

I've also seen a lot of teachers do the flicking the lights. I hate this, all the girls in my class (4th) are always very dramatic about it being dark.

Good luck with your student teaching.


I don't know what grade you are in, but here are a few things I do in first grade...

1. For their attention, say this in a quiet voice- "If you can hear me touch your nose. If you can hear me touch your head. If you can hear me clap twice." They will quickly quiet down so they can do what you say.

2. For lining up, I say, "I'm looking for a ready row". They know this means quiet and whoever is quiet lines up first.

3. You can also hold up your hand showing your 5 fingers. Without your voice (only fingers) show them 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, then closed fist means they should be quiet.

4. "My voice is quiet, I'm turned to the front, I'm standing tall and ready for the hall."

5. I countdown too. "You have 5 seconds to put your books away and take out your handwriting book". Then I count down. It's like a game for them.

6. Never talk over them. You'll wear yourself out!

Remember they are probably going to respond differently to you than their regular teacher. Especially if you just started in the classroom.

Good luck!


Senior Member
Give Me Five

I found a poster in a magazine that says "Give Me Five." I have made small posters on the computer and have these hung at the front of the room. When I say "Give me five." the students freeze, turn to me, and put their hand up (like they are giving someone five).

The posters say:
1. Eyes on the speaker.
2. Lips closed.
3. Ears listening.
4. Hands and feet quiet.
5. Sit up tall.

We review the five steps at the beginning of the year, and as needed. But even with my talkative group, as soon as I say "Give me five." it is silent and all eyes are on me.

You can buy the poster in magazines, or just make them. Be sure to put a picture cue on the poster too!