Tips to Tame 'Em: Week 3: Vocal Protocols

It's another Tuesday which means more

I'm enjoying Italy with my husband for a late honeymoon, but I've written posts for the next two Tuesdays to keep the ball rolling! I look forward to reading all your ideas once I get back to the states!

This week it's all about...

This past year, my school did a book study on Dr. Sharroky Hollie's book which focused on culturally and linguistically responsive teaching. My school is also a responsive classroom school so the practices and ideas in this book were not all new, but still nice to review.

One thing that is covered in the book is around vocal protocols!

Attention signals are those visuals or sounds that you use in order to get your student's attention. There are difference also between attention signals. Sometimes you need your student's attention right away; other times, it isn't as urgent. 

Variety and reliability is key. Whatever attention signal you teach your students, you must model it- big time! Explain and show how their bodies should look when they hear the attention signal (hands empty, eyes on the speaker, etc.) Practice it. And if they don't do it right, practice it more. The point of an attention signal is to get their attention- their full attention. Don't give any directions unless you have everyone's attention.

At least 1 attention signal should be a 'school wide' signal, meaning anyone in the building could say or do something and every student knows that their attention is required. In our school, it's Show 5. Not my fav, but it gets the job done in assemblies. This is a teacher created attention signal. You need some that you've created and shared, but I encourage you to also get your student's involved in creating attention signals and practice them as a class. This gives them ownership and they are more likely to respond because they helped in the creation! You should have quite a few signals (but they all should be well practiced) to keep kids on their toes to make them effective. If you use the same one over and over, students loose the importance of it.

Student + Teacher Created Signal
For example: Have you heard of the cha-cha slide? We've done it as a brain break so the kids are aware of it, dance to it, sing along to it. There is one part in the song where the singer says, "FREEEEEZE! EVERYBODY CLAP YOUR HANDS!" We turned that into an attention signal. I say, "Freeze!" My students then say, "Everybody clap your hands!" How does this get their attention?

  1. It makes them stop and clap along- which frees their hands.
  2. I start clapping. They don't know when I'm going to stop. I do a head nod when we all stop clapping so they HAVE to watch me to know when to stop- which makes them look at me. 
  3. It's rhythmic- which allows them to move a bit before I need their attention.
This is an example of an attention signal where their immediate attention is not required. It isn't super urgent that I get their attention right away (as opposed to like an emergency situation or when there is a large group that needs to get under control).
Below are 2 poster you can snag that already has a few ideas for attention signals/call and response protocols on it. At the end of this post is a link to a pdf with blank posters for both attention signals and call and response ideas. Simply print off the one you want, glue onto some card stock, laminate, and add some magnets. I then keep it on my whiteboard for me to easily reference. More on how to use it later!


Attention signals can sometimes be a  Call and Response Protocol where the purpose it to get their attention. There are other call and response protocols that can be used as an engagement opportunity during my teaching.

  1. I use call and response to reinforce vocabulary in a lesson by doing a lot of, "When I say _____, you say _______." Some examples have been when we are learning about character traits and learning synonyms for traits. For example, "When I say brave, you say courageous. Brave! Courageous! Brave! Courageous!" This gets them involved in our lesson while reinforcing skills. 
  2. We use call and response during partner work and transitions. We do something called, "Walk and Talk" and "Stop and Chat" (I use them slightly different- more on that later on in the series). Both involve students getting up and walking around while they share their thinking or their work with a classmate. It runs smoothly because they know the different call and responses I've taught. They know to end their conversation and come back to the carpet when they hear me say, "Thank your partner." Then they say, "Thank you" to their partner and come back. Depending on how I say "Thank your partner" is how they respond to their partner.

Click on the photo below to download a resource to help you keep track of your attention signals/call and response protocols! There's 3 different layouts with 3 different frame options so hopefully at least one of them will work for you!

Ways to use the blank templates:
  • Print off, laminate, and add magnets to the back and attach it to your whiteboard. Then, as you teach students new protocols, use a whiteboard marker and add it to your poster. Build your poster throughout the year!
  • Use text boxes and type in the protocols you will/did teach before you print it. Again, I suggest leaving some blanks to add original ones created with your class.

Now it's your turn:

You have 2 options

1) Respond to the question in the comments section
2) Grab the buttons and link up with a longer post!

No need to link up on Tuesday! You can do it any day of the week until the next Tips to Tame 'Em comes out!

Here's this week's question:

I can't wait to grab some new attention signals from you all!


1 comment

  1. I love the synonym call and response activity!! Thanks!


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