Oh, spring time! The weather is warming up. The snow is melting. Spring break is coming. The children are wild. I love working with children, but I am always amazed at those times of the year when recapturing their attention seems impossible. This quick blog has my top tips for getting the eyes, ears and hearts of the kiddos back on you after small groups or discussion times. These could even be used to start your time with them.
Bop! Bop! Bop!–ALL AGES
I cannot claim this as an original idea. When I was in college and observing other teachers to get my teaching degree, a teacher used this tactic for getting her students' attention. It cut through the dull din of conversation in the classroom. In my last teaching position, I could command the gym full of children with this technique. (Careful – with great power comes great responsibility.) I sing the words, "Bop! Bop! Bop!" in an incremental scale and the children know to sing it back to me. I have found that even if only a small percentage of your children know this is the protocol, and they do it, a small chorus of singing voices is enough to interrupt and distract the children to think, "What is going on?" On your first day of VBS or at the beginning of a Sunday school class, explain that whenever you use this, it is because you have something important to tell them.
Hands up, voices off–ALL AGES
Similar to Bop! Bop! Bop!, this is a response tactic. You hold up the number 2 on your fingers (like making a peace sign) in full extended arm. Establish that children who see you do this mimic it and stop talking. Though it can take a moment, the silence spreads as students notice the children raising their arms up like yours.
Clap a Rhythm–K-12
This one works very well if it takes a large group some time to catch on. Clap three or four times in a repeatable rhythm. The children will clap the exact rhythm you create. Then you can clap the same one or a different one. They repeat you again. You can do this as much as you need to until you have everyone’s attention. Like Bop! Bop! Bop!, at some point you will need to establish this as a routine in this setting
"Stop. Freeze. Listen, Please!"–Smaller and Younger Groups
When you use this technique, there's no response required beyond following directions. The short and rhyming phrases makes it stick out. Need a big voice. Invite a “frozen statue position” for fun flare!
Pick one that works for you and use it consistently. As time goes by, it will become more ingrained and work like a well-oiled machine. . . . most of the time. God bless your work with the children!
Looking for more tips and techniques for working with kids? Read our other posts by Beth Schultz for more practical strategies on working with kids at church!