Introducing Attention Grabbers to Your Classroom

Last night I shared some attention grabbers on my Facebook page. A follower left me a comment that got me thinking and led to this post. She wanted to know how to actually introduce students to attention grabbers. I thought that was a great question, and I'm sure that she's not the only one wondering this, so here's a post to answer that question!

First and foremost, choose one attention grabber that you'd like to use. It is my suggestion that you start with just one so that students can get used to your expectations with that one before you introduce any others. You can select more later if you'd like. I usually use just one all year, but I've done two. I personally wouldn't do more than that, but you'll know what works best for you. As you select the one that you will use, consider your grade level and their interests. I honestly love some of the attention grabbers out there that use old song lyrics or phrases, but I'm not sure my students would get it. Also, "Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom" would not work with my fifth graders, but it works fabulously in a primary classroom. In addition, I have a preference for attention grabbers that are short on words because you know, less equals more. I like to keep it short and sweet so that the attention grabber gets their attention and doesn't get them silly. Here's a list of the ones that I love most:

Click on the image above to grab a printable version of this list. 

Once you've selected your attention grabber, consider your first week activities. Your attention grabber should become a part of all of the activities that will involve student interaction (which will be the majority of your activities). Remember that no matter the age, your students will need your expectation explained and modeled, modeled, modeled! Before your very first activity that will involve interaction, introduce your attention grabber. Here's an example:

Teacher: Class, this year we are going to do a lot of group work. This will mean that you will be working with your classmates, and yes, you will be able to talk at a voice level ____. Each time you work together, I will need to be able to give you a signal that gets your attention and let's you know when it is time to stop. I am going to call out a phrase, and you will respond back with that phrase. Then, as soon as you have responded, your talking should stop and your eyes should be on me. I will say, Hocus Pocus and you will say Everybody Focus. Let's try it. Hocus Pocus!

Students: Everybody focus.

(Don't expect everyone to get it the first time.)

Teacher: Good job! Now, let's test it out. I want you to turn and talk to the person next to you. Tell them three places that you went this summer. Don't worry if you didn't travel somewhere new, you can say 7-11, my friend's house, and my grandmother's house. Any three will do! Ready? Go!

Students should be talking at this point, though it's the first day so they may need some encouragement. If the first round doesn't spark a lot of conversation, don't worry. I'll give you an extra tip in a moment. After about two minutes of discussion, use your attention grabber to stop conversation.

Teacher: Hocus Pocus!

Students: Everybody Focus!

Teacher: Hooray! That was so awesome! We'll keep practicing and get even better each time. Now, let's move on to activity that will give you an opportunity to chat again.

Here's my extra tip: If your students are incredibly uncomfortable with chatting at first, give them a silly nonsense phrase to repeat to their partner over and over for a minute (and don't forget to include your voice level expectation). It can be ice cream, just ask them to turn and say it to each other, taking turns, over and over, and stop them after a shorter time with your attention grabber. This will work and maybe break the ice a bit too!

From there, you should begin to use your attention grabber each time you have the opportunity. Praise will be important, especially during that first week, so keep complimenting them on how well they are doing with stopping and listening. Don't be afraid, however, to say something along the lines of, "That was even better. The next time, I'd like to see all eyes on me/voices off even faster." Again, be clear in your expectations, practice, practice, practice and the attention grabber will be a great success!



  1. Love this. I'll be teaching fourth this year and I think most attention grabbers have been geared towards lower grades but these are great ideas.

  2. I love the tip of having kids say a silly phrase over and over again! It really is sometimes hard to get kids talking on the first days! Thanks girl!

    A Tall Drink of Water

  3. Love this post! Mo will be teaching 75 fourth graders this year (three classes) and this will certainly come in handy! Now I just need to pick out my favorite phrase to use! I loved the dialogue sample too! Thank you!
    Pinkadots Elementary


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