20 Attention Getting Strategies Using Call and Response

As a former Summer Camp Director I had to master getting the attention of hundreds of kids at once. Speaking to a group that isn’t quiet and focused on you isn’t productive. At least 50% of the group will miss what you are saying or get only part of it. Also, it is disrespectful to speak when a leader is talking and we always want to teach manners and audience etiquette when we get the chance.

Naturally, you don’t want your students thinking they can speak over you whenever they feel like it, but you also don’t want to have to be stern about it either. You want to have a culture of respect within the class, so when anyone speaks (students or teachers) there is quiet so the person can be heard.

If you are firm, but fair about this at the beginning of the year, it will be an expectation that all your students will easily follow.

Of course, the more you can make it fun, the better. At camp we used to do a lot of “call and response” chants that always worked well! So the staff member, says a line and the children respond with another phrase immediately after. The expectation is that as soon as they respond they are completely silent. You can even make it a game when they are first learning the calls and responses – get them to be super loud and the do the call and response and see how fast they can become quiet. You can even give class points/rewards as part of it.

I recently polled some of my fellow Camp Directors to ask what some of their favourite call and response chants are.

Here Are 20 Of The 2018 Current Call and Response Faves:

  1. Staff say: “To infinity,” Kids say: “And beyond!” (Toy Story)
  2. Staff say: “Macaroni & Cheese!”, Kids say:”Everybody Freeze!”
  3. Staff say: “Lions & Tigers & Bears!”, Kids say:” Oh my!”
  4. Staff say: “A hush fell over the crowd!”, Kids say: “Husshhh”
  5. Staff say: “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”, Kids say: “Sponge bob square pants!”
  6. Staff say: “1, 2, 3, eyes on me.”, Kids say: “1, 2, eyes on you.”
  7. Staff say: “If you can hear me clap once” Kids: clap once (repeat with higher numbers – twice, 3 times, 4 times etc)
  8. Staff say: “Hey you guys”, Kids say: “Hey what”
  9. Staff say: “Hocus Pocus”, Kids say: “Everybody Focus!”
  10. Staff say: if you can hear me touch your (nose, elbow, head, toes etc), Kids: do the action called out by the staff.
  11. Staff say: “Who farted?” Kids say: “I did!”
  12. Staff say: “The stars at night are big and bright”, Kids say/do: *clap, clap, clap, clap* “Deep in the heart of Texas”
  13. Staff sing: “I want it”, Kids say: “that way!” (Backstreet Boys Song)
  14. Staff say: “Twinkle twinkle”, Kids say: “Little Star”
  15. Staff say: “Skittles”, Kids say: “Taste the rainbow”
  16. Staff say: “If you can hear me say watermelon!” or “If you can hear me say tractor!” and like a bunch of random odd words that gets the kids attention, then end with “If you can hear me say I’m going to listen now!” Kids repeat each word ending with “I’m going to listen now!”
  17. Staff say: “Hey, Hey!!”, Kids say: “Ho Ho!!”
  18. Staff say: “Hakuna”, Kids say: “Matata”
  19. Staff say: “Yackety-yak”, Kids say: “Don’t talk back!”
  20. Staff say: “When the hand goes up”, Kids say: “The mouth goes shut.” (actually raise your hand in the air).

Using call and response chants is only part of what it takes to get a group’s attention. If you’ve had some experience with drama and acting on stage you know that part of getting command over your audience is about:

  1. Exuding confidence (stand tall with your head up)
  2. Having eye contact with the audience
  3. Speaking clearly and loud enough so those in the very back of the room can hear you

When you combine all these techniques together AND you make it fun for the kids it works like a charm. Part of the success is also getting the students to talk about why giving their attention is important. Get them to tell you why it matters in a class discussion. Don’t assume they understand.

I hope you’ll give some of these call and response chants a try. Summer camps use them all the time with great success.

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