Ever think – hmm, I wonder if the kids heard me? Or, ever wish you had a great way to get the kids’ attention without turning into the “crazy-big-eyes-arm-waving-screeching-loud-Mom?” Try a call and response! (The call and response technique came up in conversations had at the No Yell Challenge Facebook event.)
A call and response is a teaching technique used to gain the attention of your students. Most often both the call and the response are verbal but non-verbal actions could also be used. This technique works great for large groups like when you’re coaching soccer or volunteering at church. But it is just as effective with one child. Call and response is an easy crossover from classroom to home/parenting. It’s particularly useful during free play, transitions, or when the kids are getting a little rowdy. It is appropriate for all ages toddler to teen.
The general idea is that you call out a word or phrase and your child or students respond with a specific word or phrase and then freeze and listen. It can be short and sweet, long and funny, based on a book you’re reading or a moving you love. It can incorporate your organization’s name or whatever works for you.
(parent/teacher on the left, child/students on the right):
- Hey……………Ho, Kid SPACE let’s go (clap and freeze) (change Kid SPACE to something that works for you)
- Chicka Chicka……………Boom Boom (super easy for little ones)
- Eyes……looking, Ears…..listening, Brains……….ready to learn
- Who you gonna call………….Ghost busters
- Hey there kiddos, how are you……………we are listening, through and through
- Hey hey what time is it……..it is time to quit and sit (use when the kids are wild)
I can go on and on but I’m sure you get the idea. Just make sure it’s appropriate for your use. For instance, years ago I taught summer dance camps and used: Me: Are you ready? Students: We’re hot, we’re sweaty, but baby we are ready! silly and fun when you’re sweating at camp but not so cute for the preschoolers at church!
Another fun way to get their attention is clapping a rhythm. You clap out a measure and they clap it back to you in tempo. You keep going back and forth until you have the attention of everyone. This works well for older elementary aged kids and up. With older ones, challenge them by making the rhythms get harder as you go.
My very Southern Mom had her own version of call and response. Anytime she asked us to do something she would end it by asking “Do you understand?” To which we replied “Yes Ma’am” (I catch myself doing this all the time). Lots of opinions on the ‘ma’am’ thing, but it provided an opportunity for two-way communication and ensured that Mom’s instructions were heard. I hear lots of Moms today ask there child to respond with a ‘yes Mom.’ Not exactly a call and response but this is very helpful in teaching manners, validating Mom and all around good communication.
- Have the kids help you create a call and response. This gives them ownership in it and they’ll be more inclined to use it.
- Don’t overuse it.
- Change it when you find it has become ineffective (I like anew one each year).
- Make it fun and your kids will love it.
What is your favorite call and response?