Go Fish for Focus Fish!

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Every year Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) or Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs) in schools across the United States (and likely in other parts of the world – a subject I plan to research) are faced with the challenge of generating income to support programs for their students and teachers.

One of the most popular American fundraisers is the “Fall Festival,” usually held in early October when the weather in most parts of the country is still warm enough for outdoor events. Fall Festivals often have a harvest theme but at many schools, these FUNdraisers include a variety of games that are fun year-round. Fun, and full of nostalgia for parents and teachers who remember playing the same games when they were in their early school years.

A bit of fundraiser nostalgia nudged my heart recently when I attended a Fall Festival at one of the elementary schools where I’ve been teaching since 2002. As I watched children line up to play “Go Fish in a Bucket,” a new idea for an attention-getting trick popped into my mind: Fishing for Focus Fish.

It’s easy to see why kids love to play the fishing game that’s been enjoyed for generations. It’s simple – an adult hands each player a miniature fishing pole with a string attached to one end along with a magnet. Lucky anglers watch with delight as their line hooks to a magnetized plastic fish in a bucket filled with water. Caught – a fish and a prize!

Fishing for Focus Fish is a variation on a popular theme that may help you catch and keep students’ attention. I recommend this trick for grades K – 2. In Fishing for Focus Fish, the prizes for students can be any little treats or treasures. The prize for the teacher is a classroom full of attentive kids “hooked” and ready to look, listen and learn.

Fishing for Focus Fish is easy to set up:

  • Cut out large colored paper fish shapes and using a dark marker, write “Focus Fish” in the body center of each one.
  • Punch large holes (the size of a quarter) in the middle of the fish heads.
  • Find several thin tree branches to use as fishing poles or buy plastic poles at the dollar store.
  • If needed, tie string to the poles.
  • Attach paper clips to the bottoms of the string lines and open the clips to serve as hooks.
  • Drop the paper fish into a plastic bucket (no water) and have the poles at the ready for students to “go fishing.”

One way to use this activity in your class is to introduce it ahead of a new lesson at a time when you need students to pay close attention. Invite them to go “Fishing for Focus Fish” and ask the students to keep the paper fish they “catch” on top of their desks as attention reminders. For a speedier way to distribute “Focus Fish” to your class, drop the paper fish in a net and walk around the classroom allowing students to each reach in and grab one.

Another way to use “Fishing for Focus Fish” as an attention trick is to save this activity to help re-direct students on an individual basis when you observe someone with a wandering mind, during reading time, for example. Ask him or her to come to your desk and quickly and quietly drop a line for a “Focus Fish” to get back on track. Allow the student to take the “Focus Fish” back to his or her desk as a visual reminder to stay on task for the duration of reading time.

Good attention-getting tools and tricks are like good-size fish – they’re keepers!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings.

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet


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