Effective Cueing System to Release and Regain Attention


Do you ever get the feeling that your students are beginning to tune you out like the teacher from Charlie Brown (waah, waah, waah…)? Do you sometimes feel like the invisible man/woman up at the front of the room as you try to quiet them down? If what may have worked for you in the past seems like it’s getting a little old, and the sound of your voice is losing it’s effect on your students, your method of getting their attention might need a refresh. Doing so may help save your voice, your time, and your sanity!

Today’s PCM (#10) Effective cueing systems to release and regain attention, can be used to quiet the room for added directions, to give a quick praise, or in preparation for a transition. Read on for a few quick tips on how to get their attention – and fast.

First things first – What to avoid doing:

Before getting to the tips, here are some definite things you do NOT want to do. One, because they don’t work too well for too long, but mostly because there are much better alternatives that will accomplish what you want (getting their attention quickly and in a positive way):

  • Nagging (if you have to repeat over and over, your cueing system needs a refresh, or you might not even have one – it’s never too late to start)
  • Shouting (it’s negative, it only works for a moment, and soon the students tune you out again anyway; you’ll only find yourself having to get louder to get the same effect)
  • Too many external cues, like flicking the lights (doesn’t require much attention or action on the students’ part; they can continue ignoring your instruction like nothing is happening)

Quick Tips for Refreshing your Attention-Getting Game:

OK, so here are the top 3 tips, along with lots of examples for you to try. You probably already have some kind of system in place, but maybe it’s time to change things up a bit and see how the kids respond!

1. Fluctuate your voice – add dramatic effect, go down to a whisper, raise your tone all of a sudden then drop back down, speak with an accent – all for a brief moment, then continue speaking as you normally would. The surprise factor gets their attention and adds a bit of fun!

2. Develop signals, both verbal and non-verbal, utilizing the students themselves

  • Raise hand, they follow by also raising their hands (this gets their hands, voices, and bodies to stop what they were doing)
  • Clap/snap a rhythm and they clap back
  • If you can hear me do this (they have to look up and copy your motion – hands tapping head, etc.)
  • Combine/Mix it up and add variety/quicken the pace:
    • Say softly… “If you can hear me raise your hand” (they raise hands, but only a few in the front who probably heard you)
    • Then keep going to say… “If you can hear me now clap once” (whoever hears claps once)
    • “If you can hear me now clap two times” (more kids clap along)
    • “If you can hear me now go like this” (switch to a non-verbal cue so they have to be looking at you).. (tap head, elbows, blink eyes, etc.) 
    • Do all of the above in quick succession; make it a game (maybe even with a winner who followed you with every new cue from the start)
    • You could even end with, “All the smart people do this…” 🙂

3. Do a call and response, getting creative, and adding new variety every few times you do it

    • Teacher: “Macaroni and cheese!” / Students: “Everybody freeze!”
    • Teacher: “Ba da ba-ba-ba (McDonald’s jingle) / Students: “I’m lovin it.”
    • Teacher: Red Robinnn!” / Students: “Yummmm.”
    • Teacher: “Chicka chicka!” / Students: “Boom boom!”
    • Teacher: “Class, class?” / Students: “Yes, Yes?” – they have to say it back in the same way (high-pitched, whisper, sing-song, monster voice, opera voice, rap-style, etc.) – you can Google “Class Yes” and find many videos on this one.
    • Scream: “Quiet, YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY!”  – Ok, not that one. Just checking to see if you are still paying attention. 

Bonus tip: Once you have a few that your class responds well to, teach it to your sub! He/she will appreciate having a signal to follow that the students are already familiar with, and your kids will feel the continuity – almost as if you are in the room keeping an eye on them yourself!

You can use effective attention cueing to stop your class when you want to give added instructions you forgot to tell them about, when you want to just stop and call out good behavior (so the whole class can hear) when you want to recognize a group of students for working well/displaying the 4Rs, etc.), or just when you need the class to stop work and clean up. However you choose to use this strategy, good luck and have fun with this PCM!


Videos to check out for more ideas:


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