Time to Listen!

black and gray silhouettes of raised hands

A noisy classroom can be a great thing. It indicates that learners are engaged in the lesson and practicing their language skills. But how do you get the class back together at the end of an activity? Trying to yell over the class can sound harsh, and strain your vocal cords if you have a particularly talkative group! Here are suggestions for attention-getting methods that you can use in a loud classroom without losing your voice or your patience.


Silent Hand Raise

When it is time to bring the group back together, stand at a visible place in the room and silently raise your hand. As learners notice you raising your hand, they stop talking and raise their hands. Soon, everyone in the room is raising their hand and waiting for you to begin the next part of the lesson.


Bell/Blinking the Lights

Have a bell in the classroom that you can ring when it is time to bring everyone back together. Any kind of bell should work (although it’s a good idea to avoid using a cowbell; learners who have used cowbells on livestock may be surprised to hear one in the classroom) since the clear high tone carries about the sounds of the classroom. Ring the bell once or twice, then wait to see how the learners respond. If necessary, ring it again.

You can use the lights in the same way. When it’s time to bring the class back together, blink the lights several times to get everyone’s attention. Repeat if needed.


Clapping/Call and Response

Some people are hesitant about clapping or using a call and response to get learners’ attention. Both of these methods work well for cutting through the sounds of an animated classroom. As long as the prompt used is not silly or childish, it is appropriate for adults.

Example 1:

Teacher: When I say English, you say class! English!

Learners: Class!

Teacher: English!

Learners: Class!

Example 2:

Teacher: If you can hear me, clap once!

Learners: /clap/

Teacher: If you can hear me, clap twice!

Learners: /clap/  /clap/


The first time you use any of these methods in your class, explain to the learners why you are using it. For example, you might tell them that it’s important for everyone to be able to hear you when you are giving instructions or explanations, and that it can be difficult for people to hear you when everyone is talking.


Tell the learners what attention-getting method you will be using, and practice it a few times together as a class. When you use the method during the class, it will usually take a few classes for learners to get used to responding quickly. Don’t give up! Keep using the method; everyone will soon be used to it as long as you make it a regular part of your classroom management. Whatever method that you use, make sure that you wait till everyone is completely quiet before you begin addressing the whole class.


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