Student Signals: Discipline Tips Part II

What do you use to get the attention of your students when they are working?

class raising handsMost teachers know how to administer it: just one glance, and a student gets the message. It’s called “the teacher look” (or TTL), and depending on the thinness of the lips or the arch of the brow, it can be a teacher’s best tool and a student’s greatest dread.

But it’s hard for TTL to work when students are happily engaged in a group activity or chatting in a noisy cafeteria. Enter: the student signal. This is an often-nonverbal cue that quickly grabs the attention of the class without requiring the teacher to raise her voice (or her eyebrow).

Here are some possible signals:
1. Raised Hand.
The teacher raises her hand, and the students stop talking, look at the teacher and raise their hands until the class is ready.

2. Turned-off Lights.
Students stop working and talking and put their heads down when the lights go off.

3. Bell, Whistle or Musical Tone.
When they hear the signal, everyone looks at the teacher and gets ready to pay attention.

4. Clapped Rhythm.
Teacher claps a rhythm, and the students clap either a responding rhythm or repeat what the teacher clapped and then look at the teacher.

Once you pick a signal, you need to teach the signal just as you would a math problem or a vocabulary word. Teach it and then give the students time and opportunities to practice it. If their practice is great, tell them so. If it is not, tell them they will need to practice the signal again until they can do it just right and mean it. If you accept less than complete attention, that is just what they will learn to give you. You may need to practice occasionally if they slip.

Once your class learns the signal, it will be one of your best management tools. It may even cause you to retire your TTL altogether. Maybe.

Do you have another signal that you use to engage your class? If so, please comment below and share it with us! We’d love to hear your great ideas. For this three part series we will be randomly selecting someone from the comments to receive a Teacher Created Resources book of their choice.

This is part two of a three-part series: Discipline Tips for Teachers. Coming next: Using rewards and recognition to motivate good behavior.

Adapted from: Teacher Created Resources



Filed under Behavior Management, Discipline

3 responses to “Student Signals: Discipline Tips Part II

  1. Michelle Darr

    When I need the classes attention, I will say in a normal voice “If you can hear my voice touch your shoulders.” I will continue saying “If you can hear my voice touch your ____ (other parts of their bodies).” until everyone is playing the game and I have their attention.

  2. Beth

    Many children tend to hyper-focus – so I am in the habit of giving a time warning (usually 3 or 5 minutes) that it is almost time to transistion to another activity. By training them to wind it up, it is so much easier to move from one activity to another. It’s also great for the ad/hd kids who do much better when they know what to expect. Any signal is more effective when the students know to expect it.

  3. Harriet Kellys

    We use at our schol for attention getters- “SIGNALS UP”. THE speaker. usually at the head of the group; inthe gym, classroom, wherever students may be assembled. The “Signals Up” verbal command notifies students immediately to come to attention. They then respond by 3 steps: !. stop all activity and talking. 2. – raise one hand in the air. 3.- Eyes on the speaker. As students are following these procedures , the speaker gives thm a reminder, verbally stating” TAKE A LOOK’. My Signal is up. This usually takes no more than a couple of minutes and the auduence, class, group is settled and quiet; ready to move to the next task.