Form an Attention Circle – Round We Go!

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

Here’s an idea for your January – schedule a day for your class to form an Attention Circle. Invite your students to take turns telling what helps them and/or makes them pay attention in school. Sure, you have all kinds of ideas for gaining and maintaining the class’ attention, but your students might surprise you with some new bright ideas.

As your Attention Circle gets underway, ask a responsible student to take notes on paper at her or his desk or on the board in front of the class while you guide the discussion circle. I recommend this structure for grades 3 – 5; you know how to make this attention-ology activity age-appropriate for your kids.

Circle time has been a popular method of sharing information, stories, suggestions, souvenirs…you name it…for decades in schools around the world. There’s something special about people of all ages who share a goal coming together in a circle to achieve it.

I read recently about a third-grade teacher who set up circle time to invite her students to take turns telling what makes them happy. Reading some of the student responses offered clues to new tools and tricks to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention.

Getting presents makes kids happy, for example; so why not offer up a math lesson with problems on paper slips tucked in a gift-wrapped box.  Stand in front of your class and ask for a volunteer to unwrap the bow and open the box lid. Announce that you’ve brought the gift of important math skills to your class and start instruction.

Snow days makes for happy K – 5 kids in climates where Mother Nature delivers the white stuff (parents and teachers who have to juggle schedules may be less thrilled with snow); so you might bring in some plastic snowballs and gently toss a few out to students to get their attention at the start of the school day. Plastic snowballs are available as ornaments in some department and dollar stores. The kids will love this trick. In fact, if you live in a climate where snow rarely or never falls, this attention-getting trick will be extra fun and funny.

Puppies and kittens make most children happy. If you teach grades K – 2, you may bring a stuffed animal to school and announce that the class pet is ready to be a reading buddy. Reluctant readers will likely jump at the opportunity to read to a non-judgmental friend. If your class pet is too popular, set up a sign-up system for borrowing the reading buddy.

Ice cream makes most kids happy. Look for pre-cut cardstock ice cream cones, usually available in packages at teacher supply stores. Tell your class at the beginning of a day that you have a surprise to give everyone who does a good job staying on task from the first to the last bell. Just before dismissal, give an ice cream cone to all deserving students.

Doing nice things for others is a happiness generator some students mention. This student response is a perfect door-opener to a teacher’s description of happiness as “working with students who pay attention in class and stay on task to get good work done.” Isn’t that one of the nicest things your class can do for you? Be sure to tell them so.

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

Talk with you next week,

Barbara The Lovable Poet

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