Training my pupils

Rule number 1: Get them to listen to you.

There are lots of times in a lesson where my pupils need to make the transition from working on a task to focusing on me.

Today, I overheard a conversation between my head of department and our newest PGCE student about the fact that before she said anything, she needed to get their attention and this was her first challenge upon which she would be judged (more so by the children than the observer!).

The list of options is long:

– Count down from five (especially effective if you supplement with visual finger counting down, also attempt to use vocal intonation to let them know the end is nigh!)

– Ask for attention (raising of voice may be needed)

– Raise your hand, hope to God they notice

– Turn the lights on and off

– Clap twice

– Ring a bell

– Blow a kazoo.

Well I’m pleased to say that I’ve found a method that I’m incredibly happy with and I thought I’d share it. I’d go so far as to say it’s my party trick which I’m desperate to show off when another adult is in the room.


In the first few lessons with my new classes, I train them to notice when I am standing in a particular spot. This spot happens to be the place I would naturally gravitate towards when I want their attention, by the board, at the front. “When I stand in this particular spot” I would say with great importance, “I expect you to look this way and listen”. At first, we’d practice in a comedy way so they’d be working on a task and I would walk towards the spot, the volume would go down, I’d smile at them and then divert my path at the last minute (very Simon Says). They kept an eye out for me and, sure enough, as soon as I stood firmly in the spot, they were looking towards me and listening.

How do they know I really want their attention? I stand up as tall as I can, concentrating on my posture and sweep the room with my eyes, focusing on those who haven’t yet noticed, hoping they’ll feel the glare (usually someone near them gives them a quick poke!).

My classes and I get on really well with this because I never use my voice to get their attention and I always praise them for refocusing quickly. It works for me in my school context where I do have the massive pleasure of working with wonderful kids. I’m not saying it’ll work in all contexts, but if you’ve never heard of it, at least now you have one more strategy to add to the lengthy list.

This blog post is taken from my story on

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