Naturally, I wasn't blessed with a deep loud voice, so straight from the moment I first stepped into the classroom I was forced to seek other ways that would easily get students' attention. Below I've outlined some non-verbal signal ideas that you could use or add to your bag of tricks. As always, teaching the expectations with these cues is an important part of implementing them.
- Clap a rhythm and request that students copy, followed by eyes and ears ready to listen.
- Raise hand and request students raise their hand to show that they are ready to listen.
- Carry out motions (tap head, tap shoulders, shake hands, etc) and require that students quietly follow. Keep doing this until you see all students copying with eyes and ears on you.
- Ring a bell, you could set the expectation of eyes and ears to the teacher and lips closed, or a simple FREEZE so that they instantly stop and quieten ready to listen to an instruction. I find students prefer the 'freeze' concept because it feels more like a game.
- Bang a drum, same idea/s with expectations set as above.
- Knock a rhythm on the desk and request that students copy (on desk or floor)
- Play a particular song. Choose a song that you will play when you need students to quickly finish what they are doing and be ready to sit and listen by the time the song ends. This non-verbal cue would be handy when you don't need their immediate attention, but want to give them time to be ready for it, such as when they are working on a project or group work. To keep it fresh, choose a new song every few weeks (you could even allow students to help choose the song... they would love being a part of the process and probably be more likely to respond to it as a cue.)
- Blow a whistle, best for using outdoors or in a very large space.
So there are some of the non-verbal cues that I've used in my classrooms across a range of ages. Having a few different cues to rotate through tends to be more effective than using just the one. In my experience, when I've use only one non-verbal cue for too long, students seem to develop an ability to "tune out," so I recommend having at least 3-4 non-verbal cues implemented in your classroom.
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.