Call-and-response is a time-tested technique for getting attention, not just in classrooms but in the military, in churches, at sports events, and in traditional cultures in various parts of the world.
Instead of repeating yourself, train students to respond to a fun or inspiring statement!
Here are some tips for creating your own call-and-response:
- Clap or snap in patterns and have students repeat the patterns back. Using familiar songs and beats (from popular music or children’s songs) really gets kids’ attention.
- Sing or play a song or rhyme. You can sing the first part and have students sing the second part. Or, chant/sing the beginning of the line and have students respond with the end of last word of the line.
- Use regional or sports team call-and responses. A teacher in St. Louis uses “Who dat?…We dat!” Here in NYC, I’ve heard “Hello, Brooklyn…How you do?” (from a Jay Z song.)
- Incorporate traditional call-and-responses from various world cultures. When I lived in D.C., I taught many children from Nigeria and Ghana, where call-and-response techniques are deeply rooted in the culture and extend beyond the classroom walls. “Ago…Amée!” (pronounced (AH-go, AHM-ay) is a great example to use in the classroom–hold the notes a little bit (Ahh-gooooooo…Am-éeeeeeee!) Here’s a traditional call-and-response song from Ghana (MP3 here).
- Put a twist on the old “If you can hear me, put your hands on your head.” Teacher Stacey M. says she tells her students, “‘If you can hear me, put your hands on your head, on your shoulders, knees, etc’, but as I make the motions, I will say a different body part. So, they are watching me put my hands on my shoulders, but I am saying,’Hands on your hips’. It’s hilarious! It takes them a while to figure it out and really gets them to focus on me.”
- Refer to the school motto or theme. Teacher John B. says, “We have a school wide attention signal. We are the Giunta Giants. The adult says Giun-ta and two claps. Students say Gi-ants and two claps.” Tanya M. says, “Call the name of your school and they respond back with the mascot name.” Betsy M. shares this one: “Teacher: Warriors Believe!!! Students: Warriors Achieve! It’s our middle school mascot and works every time!”
- Reinforce character education and life lessons. Anything you have kids repeat multiple times per day is going to get ingrained in their heads, so use the opportunity to teach something meaningful! Try: Never…Give Up! Work hard…Do right!
- Ask your students to come up with their own. This takes 5 minutes and can be a great back-to-school activity or something to do after a holiday break to build a sense of community and get kids ready to learn again. Have students work in pairs or small groups to brainstorm a list of call-and-responses they’d like to use, and narrow the list down to their top 5. Have them submit the list to you for final selection. You can have the class vote on the one they like best, or use a bunch of the kids’ suggestions, trying a new one every month or so.
- Use one of these 50 call-and-responses ideas to get you started:
- Meanwhile…Back at the ranch!
- Scooby Dooby Doo…Where Are You?
- Oh me…Oh my!
- Ready Set…You bet!
- If you can’t make a mistake…You can’t make anything!
- No bees, no honey…No work, no money!
- Hocus pocus…Time to focus!
- Hocus pocus…Everybody focus!
- Holy moly…Guacamole!
- Macaroni and cheese…Everybody freeze!
- What’s up?…It’s all good!
- One, two, three, eyes on me…One, two, eyes on you!
- To infinity…And beyond!
- What are we here for?…To learn!
- Zip, zip, zap…We’re all that!
- Hands on top…Everybody stop! [while putting both hands on head]
- Can I get a…Whoop whoop!
- Freeze! Everybody clap your hands!…[7 claps]
- Stop…Collaborate and listen!
- Piece of pie…Piece of cake!
- Are you ready, kids?…Aye Aye, Captain!
- Sponge Bob…Square Pants!
- Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?…SpongeBob Squarepants!
- And a hush fell across the room!…Shhhhh!
- Peanut butter…Jelly!
- Work hard…Do right!
- We are learning…All the time!
- Mona…Lisa! [sitting like Mona Lisa with hands in lap, mouth quiet, eyes on teacher]
- WWW Dot…Zip it dot com!
- All set…You bet!
- (singing) Bum, bada bum bum…Bum, bum!
- Here I come to save the day…Mighty Mouse is on his way!
- Eeny meeny…Miny mo!
- Every choice you make counts…Make choices you can count on!
- Ready to Rock…Ready to Roll!
- Good, better…Best!…Never let it…Rest!…Until your good is…Better!…And your better is the…Best!
- Class, class…Yes, yes! (vary the speed, tone, volume, etc. and have students match it)
- Hot fudge…Sundae!
- Who loves you?….You do!
- Flat tire…Shhh!
- Focus UP…[kids bang on the desk twice and clap twice in a nice rhythm]
- Zip it, lock it [do the motion of zipping and locking lips]…Put it in your pocket [class does the hand motions as well and then puts the pretend key in their pocket]
- Shark bait…Oooh ha ha! [from Finding Nemo]
- Are you focused?…Yes, I am!
Want a ready-to-use version of these call-and-response ideas for your class? In my TeachersPayTeachers store, you can purchase a PowerPoint and printable cards to display and teach call-and-responses to your class. Everything is completely editable so you can customize the files and incorporate your students’ ideas!
What type of call-and-response systems do you use with your students? Share your suggestions in the comments! Or find more ideas in my post 15 creative & respectful ways to quiet a class.
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