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Signaling & Cueing

Survey responses show that the various signals successful teachers use to get and hold students' attention to directions, information, and tasks are considered an important part of getting students motivated. The following list of recommendations can help you accomplish these goals.

1. Getting students' attention. Review the following list of what teachers say to get students to listen to their directions and circle those that seem most applicable to your grade level and personal style.

  • I need to see everyone's eyes looking at me.
  • 1,2,3. Eyes on me.
  • When I see everyone's eyes, I'll know you're ready to begin.
  • Stop, look and (in unison) listen.
  • Eyes on me, ears listening, mouth closed, feet quiet, seat on rug.

2. Get students back on task. Memorize at least three of the following questions teachers ask to redirect student attention to the assigned task.

  • Are you with me?
  • Can I help?
  • Having trouble?
  • Are you doing your job?
  • Can you repeat my directions?

3. Review other ways teachers get or redirect student attention to the assigned task. Circle those that appear most appropriate for your grade level and personal style.

  • Counting forwards or backwards from five.
  • Beginning a rhythmic clap that the students finish or imitate.
  • Giving a particular student "The Eye" (an intense stare with head tilted and one eyebrow raised).
  • Raising one hand with outstretched fingers and saying, "Give me five" (each finger representing a listening or working expectation).
  • "Excuse me!"
  • "I want to see everyone seated, lips closed, bodies quiet."
  • "Mouth! Chair! Hands! Eyes!"
  • "This is your first and last warning" (of impending consequences).

4. Rate yourself. On a 10-point scale, score your behavior on the following kinds of body language successful teachers commonly associate with on-task student behavior. Ask a colleague to swap observational ratings on the same items.

  • Displays confident body posture (e.g., standing tall, feet planted solidly on the ground).
  • Uses a strong voice.
  • Moves vigorously around the room.
  • Uses many hand and facial gestures of approval and disapproval.
  • Is highly vigilant, constantly scanning the room.
  • Shows energetic and enthusiastic facial expressions.

When students become familiar with your signals that you want their attention, you will be able to quickly draw their focus to you, and minimize behavioral problems.

From The Discipline Checklist by Ken Kosier. Copyright 1998, the National Education Association.