A good technique for getting the attention of the whole class is to use a ‘countdown’ from 5 or 10 to allow students the time to finish their conversations (or work) and listen to the next instruction. Explain to the class that you are using countdown to give them fair warning that they need to listen and that it is far more polite than calling for immediate silence. Embellish your countdown with clear instructions so that students know what is expected and be prepared to modify it for different groups:

  • ‘Five, you should be finishing the sentence that you are writing
  • Three, excellent Marcus, a merit for being the first to give me your full attention
  • Two, quickly back to your places
  • One, all pens and pencils down now
  • Half, all looking this way
  • Zero, thank you.’

Some students may join in the countdown with you at first, some will not be quiet by the time you get to zero at first but persevere, use praise and rewards  to reinforce its importance and it can become an extremely efficient tool for those times when you need everyone’s attention.

You may already have a technique for getting everyone’s attention, e.g. hands up.  The countdown technique is more effective as it is time related and does not rely on students seeing you.