10 Classroom Attention Grabbers

Students raise their hands in a classroom.

If you’re a sub, getting the attention of a distracted class can be tricky. That is why many teachers rely on visual and auditory exercises to refocus their classes. After you accept a job, message the teacher and ask if the students are familiar with any particular attention grabbers. This way, you’ll know what to do when the class gets out of hand. If the teacher does not use any signals, simply let the students know what you will do when you want their attention. Try any of the examples below!

1. Bell or Wind Chime

A bell or small wind chime is a great tool you can easily fit in your sub bag. When your class starts to get noisy, ring the bell and they’ll know to stop talking.

2. Digital Sound Effects

Thanks to smart phones, we have many free sound effect apps just a click away. From cartoon noises to animal roars, there are many options to chose from. They also make focusing fun!

3. Clapping

Clapping is both a simple and interactive attention grabber. For example, clap a certain rhythm and have students try to clap it back. If they clap it back correctly, you know you have their attention.

4. Call and Response

Call and response is one of the most widely used attention grabbers there is. Teachers swear by it because students remember them well and enjoy doing them. In one common call and response exercise the teacher says, “Peanut butter” and the students respond, “Jelly”.

5. Countdown

This tactic is as simple as it sounds. All you have to do is loudly start counting down from 10. Once you get to 1, your students should be quiet. If not, they know that their will be consequences.

6. Math Problems

Another great attention grabber is calling out math questions. Regardless of the class, keep it fairly simple so you know that everyone can answer. You may say “three plus three equals…” and they reply, “6!”.

7. Quiet Cues

Quiet cues require no sound at all. You can explain to your students, for example, that if you hold up 5 fingers, this means “give me 5”. They hold up five fingers and stop talking.

8. Visual Signal

Visual signals are another fun way to keep a class focused. If students start to chatter, put on a funny hat. As soon as they notice what you’re wearing, they stop talking and put their hands on their head. This signifies that they’ve got on their “thinking caps” and are ready to learn!

9. Locational Cues

Some teachers simply have the presence to use locational cues. You explain to students that if you are standing in a particular spot of the classroom, this means they need to pay attention. Stand there until everyone is looking at you.

10. Questions

This attention grabbing technique is similar to call and response, but is delivered as question. For example, you might ask “Do you hear me?” and the student’s response “Yes, We hear you!”. You can even start in a whisper and get louder to see who is really paying attention and who’s not.


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