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'If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands!', by Belinda

I was lucky (unlucky?) enough during the volcanic explosion to be in the same class for four days. This class had a reputation at the school for being somewhat unruly. On my first day, I noticed some bells in the classroom. “Great, I won’t have to raise my voice to get their attention, these little bells will get the students listening when I ring them”, I thought in a wildly optimistic manner. Wrong. So I tried the ‘By the time I count down from 5 and say stop!’ strategy, you will be sitting quietly and listening. Not so good. I still had to raise my voice and sometimes shout to get the students to listen. Then I tried my ‘Stop, look, and listen’ singing strategy. The students who were mildly amused by this stopped and listened for awhile but then what do you do about all the others who keep talking? There is of course the ‘I will just start talk quietly and you have to stop talking to listen to me’ strategy. I have to admit that this worked for me on the fourth day I taught this class, and this possibly only worked because they knew me by then and respected me as their teacher.

However, I was lucky enough that a teaching Guru imparted her wisdom upon me. Wisdom that I will now generously share with you. Using your normal voice say, “Those who can hear me, clap once”. Students who can hear you will clap, others may wonder what this clap is and stop, others may keep talking. Then say, “Those who can hear me, clap twice”. This time, more students will have heard you because they stopped talking long enough to wonder what that first clap was. This usually makes the other students who were still talking wonder why everyone else clapped, and then stop talking. This is your moment to swoop in, praise the students for being quiet, and then start what you need to. Of course, you may have to get to “Those who can hear me, clap three times” but give it a go and see what happens. I started to use this strategy with the class as soon as the Guru shared it with me and I have to say it worked a treat. I am seriously looking forward to using it for the rest of my teaching career. So other teachers, what are your hot tips and tricks to get students to listen?

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Category: Teach in the UK

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