39 Helpful Non-Verbal Attention-Getters: Quiet Students Fast

While you probably have your favorite classroom attention-getters that you use regularly to focus students quickly, what you might lack are non-verbal attention-getters. 

What Are the Benefits of Using Non-Verbal Attention Getters? 

  • In addition to adding variety to your attention-grabbers collection, non-verbal attention-getters fit well in situations where you don’t want to make noise when redirecting students such as in a library, at an assembly, during a test, etc.  
  • Noise control is the objective. The goal is to minimize distractions and interruptions to others sharing the space. 
  • Silent attention-getters may be used as evaluative gestures that help teachers to see quickly who understood a lesson by simply using a finger rating scale. (e.g. 5 fingers = I got it! and 1 finger = I’m lost.)
  • Non-verbal attention-getters support limited-English language learners as they reduce language barriers to comprehension.
  • Utilizing silent signals in the classroom offers a different type of teaching and learning experience that helps to support special education students. 
  • Including in your repertoire a few good non-verbal attention-getters is essential because eventually, you’ll need these helpful signals to capture students’ attention at a moment’s notice.

Non-Verbal Attention-Getters

This post shares good examples of non-verbal attention-grabbers that prompt responses to sight and sound signals. 

So whether you’re trying to figure out how to get students to line up quietly or transition from one task to the next without chaos, this list of silent signals in the classroom includes ideas that will meet your needs. 

1. Use a Red-Green-Yellow Sign. 

Using construction paper, make a stoplight model. Place a clothespin on the color that corresponds to how well the class is showing an appropriate action. Move the clip as needed. 

Note: It’s best to use this silent signal in response to whole class actions instead of singling out individual students. 

2. Knock On Your Desk. 

Simply knock on your teacher’s desk and keep knocking until you have every child’s attention.

3. Move a Rainstick. 

This silent attention-grabber works well when students are hyperactive because it calms them.  

Grab a rainstick, move it gently, and wait for students to focus. 

4. Hold Up Emoji Sticks. 

A fun non-verbal attention-getter is to use a pair of emoji sticks

One stick has a “happy” emoji and the other a “sad” emoji, each attached to a popsicle stick. 

non-verbal attention-getters

Hold up the “sad” emoji to signal to students that it’s time to stop, look, and listen. Once all have done so, hold up the “happy” emoji stick. 

5. Place Something Around Neck. 

A simple non-verbal attention-grabber is to place around your neck a flashy or showy object such as Mardi Gras beads, a bell, a bright sign, etc. There are lots of options. 

If using colored signs, consider using red and green. Red means it’s time to stop, and green means all is good. 

6. Do a Five-Finger Countdown. 

Hold up five fingers.

As you walk around the classroom so that students may observe your fingers, count down until you get to one finger.

By that time, all students should be focused.

7. Play Music. 

Grab attention fast by playing a song. Once the song finishes, students should be ready to listen.

If you’ve got the voice and confidence, consider singing a song. 

8. Shake Pom Poms.

Rev up school spirit by bringing in some pom poms.  When you’re ready to grab attention, shake the pom poms like you’re a cheerleader! 

9. Ring a Bell. 

Grab a call bell (or even a cowbell), and ring it until you have everyone’s attention.

10. Put Hands On Head. 

Place your hands on your head, walking around the classroom until everyone is focused.

11. Set a Special Ringtone From Your Phone.

A cool attention-getter is to set a special ring ringtone on your phone. When students hear the ringtone, they know that it’s time to listen.

Be sure to place the phone in a place where every student will be able to hear.

12. Utilize Hand Signals.

Very effective non-verbal attention-getters include hand signals. Hand signals make a great addition to any classroom management program.

hand signals in the classoom
This hand gesture could signal “Quiet please.”

Because there are a variety of different hand signals to utilize, choose the ones that you feel are best for grabbing students’ attention. 

See ideas for hand signals to use in your classroom

13. Write a Message On the Board. 

Begin drawing or writing a message on the board. Students know to get focused before the drawing or sentence is completed. 

14. Hold Up a Sign. 

Simply hold up a sign with an image that signals that it is time to transition to the next task.  

15. Blow Bubbles. 

For outdoor activities such as recess or outside lessons, blowing bubbles is a great way to attract students’ attention quickly.

16. Communicate In Sign Language.

If possible, learn a few words or phrases in sign language and communicate those phrases with students when you need to grab their attention.

17. Put Finger On Nose.

When you need all eyes on you, put your finger on your nose and then wait for every student to do the same.

18. Incorporate Sound Effects. 

If you have access to some cool sound effects, play a few to grab students’ attention. 

Sound effects as non-verbal attention-getters work well in classrooms because they are entertaining to hear. 

19. Silence With Jazz Hands. 

Use jazz hands to silence students or to signal that it’s time to transition to another activity.

20. Perform a Clap and Stomp Sequence. 

If you want to test students’ rhythmic skills in a fun and playful way, perform a clap/stomp sequence. 

Students repeat it. 

Continue going back and forth a few times until you have everyone’s attention. 

21. Whistle.

Physical education teachers and coaches know that whistles work very effectively as non-verbal attention-getters, so why not try them in your classroom? 

When you’re ready to transition students, simply blow the whistle to grab their attention. 

To take things up a notch, use a party whistle or horn. Students really love those!

22. Point to Classroom Management Chart. 

If you use some sort of criteria-based system in your classroom management plan (e.g. CHAMPS), point to a chart from that system that signals that students need to quiet and focus. 

23. Cease Talk and Time. 

Abruptly stop talking and start timing. Record how much time it takes for students to quiet. 

Once the culmination of time over a period of a week exceeds a certain number (which you decide), that’s how much time will be subtracted from an upcoming favorite activity. 

24. Rumble Marbles From a Rewards Jar. 

If you use a marble jar reward system in your classroom, rumble marbles from the jar to grab students’ attention.

25. Stand In a Particular Spot.

Stand in a certain space in the classroom to show that it’s time to stop and listen. 

26. Place An Object In a Certain Place. 

When students see a certain object (that the teacher and students decide upon beforehand) atop a file cabinet, shelf, cubbies, etc, they know that it means that they need to focus their energy on the teacher. 

27. Squeeze a Pet Toy.

Include animal love in your collection of non-verbal attention-getters. Grab some of those fun dog toys that make noise. 

Whenever you need to grab the attention of students, squeeze one of the toys. 

Those that make quack and oink sounds are especially fun to hear! 

28. Set a Timer On the Projector. 

If you don’t mind using a bit of technology, set a timer on your projector.

Students know that when the timer reaches zero, they should be focused on you.

29. Project An Emoji On Project Screen. 

Project on a screen a smiley emoji face or another appropriate emoji character when you need to focus students fast. 

30. Raise Your Hand. 

Raise your hand, and wait for students to do the same. Once their hands are raised, mouths should be closed and ears opened. 

31. Blow On a Pinwheel. 

Make a pinwheel. 

Every time you want to get students’ attention, start blowing on it until all eyes are on you.

32. Play An Instrument. 

Whether it’s a guitar, chime, recorder, triangle, etc., play an instrument to signal to students that it’s time to transition to the next activity or task. 

33. Flicker the Lights. 

Flicker the lights until all eyes are on you. Be careful with this silent classroom signal as it could nauseate some students. 

34. Make a Peace Sign.

For silent signals in the classroom that are simple, make a peace sign with your fingers while walking about students until they are silent. 

35. Wiggle Your Earlobe. 

Walk about the classroom, wiggling your ear until you have all attention focused on you.

36. Place a Cup on Teacher’s Desk or Table Group.

This attention-grabber works well for small group activities like centers and group projects. 

When you need members’ attention, place a cup open-side down on their table group. 

37. Tap a Student’s Shoulder.

This is an engaging attention-grabber that encourages every student to participate.

First, tap one student on the shoulder. He or she stops to look and listen.

That student then taps another student who quiets.

This student then taps another classmate on the shoulder, and this continues until every child has stopped to listen. 

38. Wear a Special Hat.

If you have a special hat such as a cap, sombrero, crown, or jester’s hat, teach students that when that particular hat is placed on your head, that is a sign that they need to silence and focus their attention on you.

39. Put On a Festive Headband.

Grab a reindeer alters headband or any cute festive head bopper, and put it on your head when you need students’ attention fast.

Final Thoughts On Silent Signals In the Classroom

If you’re seeking silent signals that work in the classroom, you’ll have great success with non-verbal attention-getters.

Consider making attention-getting posters so that students have a visual reminder of how each signal works. 

Now you’re all set to grab students’ attention quickly with minimal distraction and noise.

What a great way to keep your classroom under control!