Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ding! Humm! Toot! Getting Kids' Attention

There are lots of ways to get kids' attention in class. Teachers are always sharing sayings, motions, and claps, and I love learning new ones. They are fun, and great for helping kids focus.

I also have numerous devises that help kids attend without saying a word. I gathered these quasi instruments together for this photo, but they are kept in different places around my room-- spots where I usually am when I need kids to be quiet. They can all cut through the classroom chatter in an instant, especially as we practice a quiet response when I introduce each one during the year. And a bonus to a brain compatible classroom is that they are nicely melodious as they do their job.

When I am at guided reading and the rest of the class is doing centers, I give a single strike of a chime. If they get noisy again, then I might slide the mallet to hear all eight notes. This second reminder sends the message to use more self-control.

I have a tap bell, the kind used at business counters when the attendant is away, on my pantry shelf, and another at the carpet meeting area. One quick ping and eyes are on me.

The apple bell was a special gift from a parent, personalized with my name on it. It stays on my desk.

The little duck xylophone is the newest addition. I saw it at the dollar store and couldn't resist. It is mostly for fun because it is rather quiet. I keep it by the pantry shelf where I dole out snack into bowls. I strike it, then quietly mouth, "Did anyone hear little duck?" Usually only the quietest kids do, and then they ask for quiet with the peace sign (two fingers up)-- a signal  that is used throughout our school that means, "give me peace and quiet."

The chime wand is a favorite. I strike it on the wall and it vibrates for several long seconds. I keep it by the door and use it when we are lining up. The kids know we are racing when they hear that sound-- who will be quiet the fastest, the wand or us? We almost always win. It readies us to walk down the hall quietly. These simple wands come in lots of shapes and you can find them here at Music Wands.

The small kalimba, some people know it as a thumb piano, is very special as it was handmade for me by musician, fellow storyteller, and friend LaRon Williams. I use it at the meeting area, too, playing as the kids arrive on the carpet so they know to settle right away because something special is coming. I almost always lead in with a whisper voice after using the kalimba. I use the kalimba in my storytelling sessions, too, as LaRon does, and it sets a very calm and attentive atmosphere.

All these instruments are pleasant and work great. There were occasions, however, when I wished I had a chime or a bell right in my hand no matter where I was. So I went on the hunt for something that I could wear, and I found it! Here is a picture of my "fairy toot."

I call it that because all small things in our classroom are for or from the fairies :) And the notes it plays sound like a tiny train whistle. You can find these little harmonica gems on the internet at various sites, though you might check them out here at Village Square. (A free bonus on this site is that on the home page you'll find directions to play numerous songs with this tiny instrument-- it took some practice, but I can play Over the Rainbow and Row Your Boat well enough that most people recognize them.  I haven't tackled The Chicken Dance yet- whoot!) I wear it everyday at school along with my lanyard and it brings smiles, and quiet, to our group when we need it.

One last thing to mention-- the pings, hums and toots generated by these instruments last a few seconds as they vibrate through the air-- a little window of time for your students to stop talking and focus. They usually make it by the time the sound fades away.

For those of you who strive for brain compatible classroom environments, you know that a chime provides a calm, musical way to signal active listening and transitions. Hope these ideas expand your repertoire of non-verbal attention grabbers. Let me know what you use!

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