"Listen up class!" "Eyes up here please!" "This is important, all we all listening?"
Annoyingly, these are just some of the things I catch myself saying. Saying too loudly actually.
By the end of my first week, I was weak. I couldn't raise my voice nor did I have the energy to.
Luckily, since then I've developed several non-verbal methods that grab their attention no matter what age, and these have become the methods I rely on for Primary and Secondary school classes.
Here are 8 simple ideas you can use when you need your entire class to stop, look and listen, without yelling at them.
8 Non-verbal ways to get your class to be quiet
Clap Your Hands
This is by far my most used method. Use a short and simple hand clapping rhythm that your class must repeat as soon as they hear it. It's kinda awkward to type out a clapping rhythm, but hopefully you can understand what - Clap. Clap. ClapClapClap. - sounds like.
Students know that once they hear it they must repeat it back in unison.
Flick The Lights
When I was a kids my school teacher used to do this. It's super simple and effective. Just flick the lights off and on a couple times. When students experience the entire room getting dark all of a sudden, it's 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, cow bell or triangle is an effective way to get the kids to quite down and listen up, 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!
Similar to ringing the bell, why not try running your fingers across some wind chimes for a softer more pleasant sounding approach. This would work great for Early Stages.
We all know the game Simon Says where the leader aka Simon says and does an action and everyone else follows.
In this instance, Simon aka the teacher, doesn't say a thing but does an action instead. 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 catch onto what everyone else is doing and the whole class swiftly becomes silent.
This approach may take a minute or two, so I've found it's way more effective when they have the added pressure that whoever is last to catch on gets some sort of 'consequence' like losing a class point. In our school we have house points that students collect with good behaviour throughout the year. No kid wants to be the one to loose a house point for their class!
Watch the Clock
In some of my classes, a simple act of my deep glaring the clock gets their attention pretty swiftly. 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. They also know that barking at each other to "be quiet!" can add on more time.
Actionable Song Lyrics
My co-worker was always playing music from her classroom, when the kids aren't around. She introduced Vanilla Ice's 'Ice Ice Baby' and chose the lyrics "Stop! Collaborate and listen". Whenever the kids see her put her hand up and say "STOP!" they respond with "Collaborate and listen!" they even have little hand actions to go with it. Alright, this isn't non-verbal method but it's a super effective and fun way to get the attention of the whole class in a fast way without yelling at them to do so.
The Take Away
All of these techniques have worked for me, but choosing right one depend on the age and energy of the children. It's very important to choose and stick with just one of these techniques so that students get used to YOUR non-verbal cue and immediately recognise what to do in your class.