How To Get Your Students’ Attention Without Yelling

8 Non-Verbal Ways to get your class to be quiet


“Listen up class!”
“Eyes up here please!”
“This is important, all we all listening?”

Just some of the things I catch myself saying. Saying really loudly actually.
This week I lost my voice. I seem to have caught a little bit of whatever was going around at the school the past few weeks. By the end of the week, I was weak. I couldn’t raise my voice nor did I have the energy to. Luckily, I have a few non-verbal attention grabbing methods that I could rely on.

Here are 8 ideas that may help when you just need your entire class to just STOP and LISTEN without yelling at them.

Clap Your Hands
I most often use a hand clapping rhythm that my students have to repeat after me. It’s kinda awkward to type the rhythm out for you but it goes like:
Clap. Clap. ClapClapClap.
They know that once they hear that clap they must repeat it and that combination means Stop, Look and Listen.

Flick The Lights
My school teacher used to do this, super simple and effective. Just flick the lights off and on a couple times. The fact that the entire room just gets dark all of a sudden is enough of a cue to look around for the teacher to find out what’s going on.

Ring a Bell
The kids are used to bells at school as a signal of transition. But those bells are loud, startling and ring for an obnoxiously long time. However, a few dings from a regular hand bell is an effective way to get the kids to stop, or get ready to transition into something else.

Blow a Whistle
Most people recognise the sound of a whistle as a signal that a call is about to be made. That’s why a quick whistle blow can be effective. Why not try a few whistle variations, or strange sounding ones. Maybe even a harmonica!

Actionable Song Lyrics
My co-worker is always playing music from her classroom, when the kids aren’t around. She showed them Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and chose the words “Stop! Collaborate and listen”. Whenever the kids see her put her hand up and her say “STOP!” then respond with “Collaborate and listen!” with their little hand actions to go with it. Alright, I guess this is clearly not a non-verbal method but it’s a super effective and fun way to get the attention of the whole class in a fast way.

Wind Chimes
Similar to ringing the bell, why not try running your fingers across some wind chimes for a softer more pleasant sounding approach.

Silent Simon
We all know the game Simon Says where the leader aka the Simon says and does an action and everyone else follows. In this instance the Simon aka, the teacher doesn’t say a thing just do an action, something obvious like a hand on the top of your head or wiggling your fingers like jazz hands. When a student catches the teacher doing it they must do the same thing in silence, more and more students will catch onto what everyone else is doing and the whole class will then be silent. This may take a couple minutes, so it’s much less immediate than the other ideas above. Although… I found it was way more effective when you put the added pressure that whoever is last to catch on gets some sort of ‘consequence’. In our school we have house points that students are collecting with good behaviour. No kid wants to be the one to loose a house point for their class!

Watch the Clock
In some of my classes just simply watching the clock gets their attention. They know that for every minute they waste being noisy (after my first instruction to be quiet has been ignored) is a minute subtracted from their ‘free time’ such as lunch time, break time, play time, home time etc.

All of these techniques have worked for me, but choosing right one may depend on the age of the children. It’s very important to stick with just one of these techniques so that students can get used to the non-verbal cue and immediately recognise what to do.

What non-verbal cues have you tried that work for you? Let me know in the comments!




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