A (Slightly) Dangerous But Effective Way To Get Your Students’ Attention

Smart Classroom Management: A (Slightly) Dangerous But Effective Way To Get Your Students' AttentionOkay, so I’ve got this strategy I’ve been using a long time.

But I’ve been reluctant to share it.

Because, you see, it can, potentially anyway, be an eensy-weensy bit dangerous.

Like stepping into the shower or walking down a flight of stairs.

So, before you try it out, you have to promise to be careful and use at your own risk.

If you’re unsure, well, it isn’t a make or break strategy, so you may want to leave this one alone.

But if you’re confident you can do it safely, then there are times when it can really come in handy.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say your class is involved in an especially active or loud activity.

They’re building a project or practicing for a performance or otherwise excitedly working together.

And let’s say that you need their attention right now. Perhaps you forgot to give them a critical piece of information or you have to make an announcement that just can’t wait.

You can certainly use the strategy we commonly recommend to get their attention, which is proven to be extremely effective and takes only a couple of seconds.

But if you add this one little (slightly) dangerous part to it, and don’t use it too often, you can bring an extra layer of urgency to your message.

It has a unique way of cutting through the commotion and hubbub in the room. The result is that your students will give you their attention faster and listen more intently.

So, to use the strategy, you’ll ask for their attention per normal. “Can I have your attention please.”

But you’ll do it while standing on a chair.

That’s right. You’re going to position yourself atop a solid—no rollers, hinges, cushions, or springs—four-legged chair.

A stool can also work.

There is something about the added height—the novelty or whimsicalness of it—that causes students to understand innately that you have something important to tell them.

It makes for a cleaner break from the tumult of the moment, allowing you to go from 100 to zero in the blink of an eye.

Now, it’s important to reiterate that you should never jump up on just any chair in the spur of the moment. Check beforehand to make sure that the one you choose is stable, sturdy, reliable, can hold your weight, etc.

I use the same, trustworthy chair every time. (I call him Sal.)

I feel comfortable using the strategy and always have. But please, if you decide to try it, be careful. I’d be horrified if videos of teachers losing their balance started popping up on YouTube.

If you have any trepidation whatsoever, take a pass on this one and stick with the same reliable method you normally use.

But if you’re willing to take the risk, however small (there is always a risk, life is a risk) then you have another helpful tool in your arsenal.

Now, no matter what’s going on in your classroom, or how much fun your students are having, you can instantly break through the clamor of voices.

You can break through their hyper focus or super engagement or even the most animated conversations.

And deliver a message you know they’ll take to heart.

PS – It probably goes without saying, but it’s a good idea to remind your students that the strategy is a teaching tool only, and they may not repeat the practice.

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27 Responses to A (Slightly) Dangerous But Effective Way To Get Your Students’ Attention

  1. Amy Howe October 14, 2017 at 7:32 am #

    Haha! I guessed it before I read it! I’ve been doing this for years. But maybe only once or or twice a year. It is immediately effective because it has the shock factor. First time I did it I walked across a long table in my Art classroom. You could have heard a pin drop! Warning your administration will freak out because of possiable Workman Comp injuries. These days I use a special 3-step railed rolling safety ladder that locks in place when you step on it. I feel like I’m directing a marching band! The kids love it! That’s for mentioning!

    • Michelle Aguilar October 14, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

      I have done this occasionally as well with a class. Works pretty well, but in my experience, pretty much only once or twice max per cohort, unless you really have a strong camaraderie with them, and it can become the thing you do to signal that something important is happening that they need to pay attention to. They think of it as your thing.

      However, with a group you don’t really have that connection with, it’s going to shock them once, and then after that, you just become the weird teacher who stands on things. 😉

      I remember having a new elementary school teacher who used to get our attention in a similar shock-value sort of way, by suddenly turning off all the lights in class. But she didn’t have a strong connection with us, and it stopped working after about the third time.

    • kellie October 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

      so good 🙂 I can imagine the kids response.

  2. MissM October 14, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    I use this method all the time! Not only to get their attention but also just to teach. My favorite time is when the information that we’re delivering is important (like reviewing parts of a fiction text) or I want them to be extra engaged.

    My students always look at me with awe when I do it. I have also stood on groups desks before (don’t worry I checked them before hand) to play quick fire games- that I honestly just made up.

  3. Jen V October 14, 2017 at 8:01 am #

    I have really loved reading your suggestions! I teach middle school choir and last year was so bad that I spent a lot of time looking for other jobs. I decided to change up what I was doing, give it everything and if it didn’t work that I would do something different. With your help and the technology that I implemented, I am having a fantastic year!!

    However, the main reason I wanted to leave a comment today was the fact that you named your chair! Several items in my classroom have names-my piano is Fred, the carpet is named Jeremy, projector cart is George, etc. -and the kids think I am nuts, but that’s part of the fun of middle school!

    Thank you so much for these great, easy ideas. You are part of the reason that I am going to keep teaching!

    • Michael Linsin October 14, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

      Way to go, Jen! Love the names. Hilarious.


      • Anupama October 14, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

        Hi Michael..I don’t think that this is slightly dangerous it can prove to be very dangerous .if we use this tool for kindergarten kids.As we all know kids love to follow their teachers and if they also face the same situation they too try the same to get attention…they can harm themself…so according to me we should try something catchy..we can say something like OH MY GOD…WOW… BEAUTIFUL…ETC…I hv trained my class for the game start and stop..I hv instructed my kids that at any time I can say start and stop that time they hv to follow coz they will get a point for their alertness so,they are ready to show their alertness any time ….😁

    • Dana October 16, 2017 at 10:06 am #

      I had a stuffed Lion that I named Perbole. The kids would walk in the door and say, “Hi! Perbole!” That’s how I taught them to pronounce the word hyperbole.

  4. SK October 14, 2017 at 8:07 am #

    Neat idea! One could also keep an OSHA step stool/ around for this purpose.

  5. May October 14, 2017 at 8:08 am #

    Easy. I’ll do it! To

  6. Sharon October 14, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    I love that! With no safe chairs and only taller science lab stools that would be very dangerous to stand on, I’m going to buy myself a foldable step – it will come in very handy, and can be kept safely out of the way of students who might be tempted to have a go themselves. I’m not short, but the students do seem to be getting taller!

  7. Christine October 14, 2017 at 9:32 am #

    As a preschool teacher, I can’t stand on a chair, the kids would stand on chairs too. I use a similar tool, I turn off the light while I give the instruction.

  8. Jamie Wolf October 14, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    Brains love novelty, and students (all of us, really) love humor, so most anything out of the ordinary (and especially silly) will get attention. Try singing your directions! Or sing your questions (an operatic voice is especially effective!) and invite students to sing their responses.

    Or strike a pose.Think Saturday Night Fever. Or Statue of Liberty. Or Pirouetting Ballerina. Or The Fonz (thumbs up and “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-y!”).

    Or change your voice. Skater voice. Valley girl. Incredible Hulk. Dudley Do-Right (I know. It dates me.)

    Break out! Shake it up! Try something new and (mildly) outrageous!

    • Michael Linsin October 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

      All great stuff, Jamie. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Maria October 14, 2017 at 10:26 am #

    I did that two weeks ago. They thought this was mildly amusing and then immediately reverted back to ignoring me with loud talking and off task behavior. What more can I do?

    • Michael Linsin October 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

      Hi Maria,

      It’s a sign you definitely need to start over from scratch. When you get a chance, check out this article:


      • Maria October 14, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

        I will try again, thank you…I have some ideas to implement this Monday
        One problem is that this is a double block in a middle school at the end of the day – the kids are either wired up or exhausted and just want to go home and, well, I am very tired too …

        • Jamie Wolf October 15, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

          Kids being wired up or exhausted makes novelty all the more effective, provided you’ve firmly established a clear base of expectations.

  10. Rebekah October 14, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    I would love to implement this strategy along with many others that I’ve read on this site. Unfortunately, I teach ESL in a private school in Turkey. We aren’t allowed to use consequences for students actions or undesirable behavior. If I stood on a chair, I would have students standing on chairs and falling off. Many of my students speak little to no English at the beginning of the year so even making rules is done simply by demonstration and using illustrations/videos etc. As there are no consequences for not following the rules, many students don’t follow the rules at all and most teachers have completely lost all of their students’ respect. I like reading all of the cool ideas though so thank you for the interesting articles!

  11. TG October 14, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    Our school board health and safety policy formally prohibits teachers as well as students from standing on chairs — even/ especially when working in our classrooms by ourselves!! I actually received a minor reprimand for standing on a nearby chair to hang a visual (at a little after 6 a.m). I didn’t want to have to go all the way down to the the utility room to get the ladder –and thought I was entirely alone. As it happened, the school custodian and principal had just come in and were standing in the doorway watching me—busted!

  12. Marlene Gay October 14, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    I like reader Jamie’s singing suggestion. As I can’t safely stand on a chair, I do have a trained singing voice. I start my lessons with 10th graders with a musical good morning. That gets their attention and smiling, to start off the lesson. 36 students, multi level EFL majoring in music or art. But they are a serious bunch, most do their assignments. And I enjoy teaching them. Tomorrow I am being observed. Hopefully I will do ok…still don’t know all their names yet. They are looking for class management techniques I use as well as lesson plan. Any advice?

    • Jamie Wolf October 15, 2017 at 10:02 pm #

      Hi Marlene, Good luck with your observation! I don’t have any advice for tomorrow. In response to your request for class management technique suggestions, I agree with Michael that it would serve you and your students if you started over in the process of establishing a classroom management SYSTEM. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to follow Michael’s link above. I wish you well!

  13. Lisa October 14, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    I do all kinds of silly things in my middle school classroom like this. It works. Michael, nothing has invigorated my teaching and improved behavior more than your books and website. Keep going! Everything you advocate works. And, yes, it even works with Turkish 12-year-old boys, so Rebekah, don’t give up. You can have consequences and earn their respect. I teach internationally and have seen a big difference in the attitudes of Turkish kids with Smart Classroom Management techniques.

    • Michael Linsin October 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

      I’m so glad to hear it, Lisa. Way to go! Thanks for sharing.

  14. MB October 14, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

    I will store the chair trick in my bag of tricks. By the way, i laughed at your chair named Sal. I have a table named George.

  15. Jen Roach October 15, 2017 at 6:05 pm #

    I found a little criss-cross applesauce chant for my little ones to get them ready for class, and it ends with “lips zip, cool whip – sshhhhhh!” So now to get attention all I have to do is say/shout “lips zip!” and the kids answer with the rest. Very effective with my younger ones, and as they get older they are so used to it they respond automatically.
    I don’t name my furniture but I do have an imaginary student – Suzie – who is always doing the wrong thing. The kids just love hearing about Suzie (chosen because no one seems to name their child Suzie anymore).


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