10 Non Verbal Ways For A Student To Gain Teacher Attention

10 Non Verbal Ways For A Student To Gain Teacher Attention

10 Non Verbal Ways For A Student To Gain Teacher Attention

Have you ever heard your name called so often in class you threatened to change your name just so no one could call on you?

Teaching your students alternative ways of accessing your attention will contribute to smooth running of the classroom, help manage behaviour problems and save your sanity! Teach and model non-verbal ways of communicating to your students.

For ways to manage student behaviour with non-verbal strategies read our popular article on the topic – Don’t say my name, non verbal ways to manage your students.

Students who don’t know what to do, or who need prompting to get started on a task, can easily become disruptive and off task, causing behaviour problems in your class. Setting up clear, workable systems or procedures for students to gain your attention, can prevent unnecessary disruptions. For how to set up routines that work see our article entitled Teaching students the routines they need to follow.

In the meantime, here are 10 non verbal ways for students to get your attention:


1. Red/green/orange cups. This Dylan Wiliam formative assessment strategy shows you clearly which students need further instruction. It also reduces the need for students to raise their hands or call out to the teacher. Set up a system with the students that guarantees they will receive assistance within a given time-frame. Make sure you follow through.


2. Names on the board. Students who need teacher assistance write their names in a list on the board then go on with other work while they wait for the teacher, or students tick their own name when they need help or correction. The teacher works through the list of names.


3. Cue cards on student desks. Create a system using cue cards to alert the teacher to students who require assistance e.g. a pink card means I need help; a yellow card means I am finished my work.


4. Sticky notes for students to jot down key words while waiting so they don’t forget what they wanted to ask.


5. Parking lot. David Langford has designed a poster for the classroom wall with 4 quadrants: comments, questions, future directions and ideas. As students think of relevant issues they write them on sticky notes and place on the poster. During the day the teacher checks the poster and gets back to the students.


6. Visual cues. What to do while you are waiting. Provide visual cues for what students can do while they are waiting for the teacher e.g. do easier parts of the work, read, draw, write in a journal.


7. Thumbs up/down/sideways. Another formative assessment strategy that immediately indicates the students requiring additional assistance. The teacher is then able to provide instruction for a group or individual based on need.


8. Mini white boards. Students write answers to questions on the white boards showing teachers who need further instruction.


9. Visual instructions for the task including an example/exemplar/rubric. Students check with the visual instructions before seeking help from the teacher. Depending on the age and ability level of the students consider using illustrations in addition to text.


10. 3 Before Me. Students are taught to seek help in 3 ways before going to the teacher. This can include another student, look up online, look in a book, read the visual instructions. For a short video on how to use this strategy see here.


What do you find your students do when they are trying to get your attention?


Marie Amaro