I’m not embarrassed to say it: I am a loud person. People usually hear me before they see me. And once, I’m almost proud to say, my professor of American Sign Language, who is deaf, was startled by my laugh.* *
Being a teacher and being loud can happily go hand in hand. Often the need arises to shout over the din to give directions, or gain the class’s attention. However, the more I teach the more I realize the value of being quiet; it often draws more attention –and definitely more respect– than being loud. For all the teachers out there, new and experienced, I share my top five attention getting techniques. For all situations. For all ages. (And yes, I have successfully used most of these on grown neurotypical adults).
5. The Classic
Clap Clap Clap-clap-clap. I believe every classroom in America has heard this pattern before. The teacher does it. The students mimic it. If it doesn’t work the first time (aka, only half the attention is grabbed) I usually do a second pattern and change it up: Clap Clap stomp-clap-clap. If I am in a musical situation, or a few students giggled, I may go on a tangent of various patterns because, hey, rhythm is fun!
4. The Lights Off
Another classic. The lights go off and everyone wonders why. When enough faces are looking at you, speak quietly. This is also a great tactic if the room is listening to you but on the verge of misbehaving. Something about a semi-darkness tends to calm people down. On a personal note, if this particular idea is used too often, the effect diminishes.
3. The Song
I work with self-dubbed “theatre kids” most of the time. They are not a shy bunch. Sometimes, if I start singing a song –anything from Row, Row, Row Your Boat to Anna Kendrick’s The Cup Song — they will join in. Get enough people singing and voila! Not only an impromptu music lesson, but finish the song and everyone is focused.
2. The Progressional Clap
This one is my favorite. I don’t need to use my voice and there is the added bonus of knowing off-hand who is paying attention. Simply say in a quiet voice, “If you can hear me, clap once. … If you can hear me, clap twice. … If you can hear me, clap three times.” Rarely have I ever had to go more than three times. Humans are excellent when it comes following patterns. I enjoy using this one without explanation and seeing the students faces think, “I don’t know why we’re all clapping. But sure, I’ll join in.”
1. The Established “Getter”
And now for the attention getter with the best track record: establish a system before you need it. I’ve seen a specific hand shape dubbed the “Silent Wolf” or “Silent Llama.” Another is the teacher saying, “Marco” to which the students respond “Polo.” (Based off the childhood pool-side game of Marco Polo). Whatever you choose, practice it before it is required. Listening, like all skills, requires repetition.
**A surprising number of deaf people still have a tiny bit of hearing. Though it is usually at a loud volume and a frequency not useful for conversation (aka, very high or very low).