Engagement Strategies - Attention Signals


Attention signals are actions completed by the teacher that are met with a reaction by the students. They are used to gain attention of the class to give instructions or transition students after using other engagement strategies such as pair-share. Effective use of attention signals focuses students to the teacher and minimises time that can be lost during lesson activities. Attention signals can be verbal, non-verbal, or musical.


  Use in the Classroom

Attention signals use a ‘Call and Response’ technique where the teacher performs an action and the students reply with a pre-determined response. Once students are attentive, the teacher can give the next set of instructions using clear and concise language.


Clapping signals

  • Teacher: If you can hear me, clap once.
  • Students: Clap
  • Teacher: If you can hear me, clap twice.
  • Students: Clap, Clap


  • Teacher: If you can hear me, put your finger over your mouth and say shh
  • Students: shh

Simple ‘call and response’ statements

  • Teacher: Ready to Listen
  • Students: Ready to Learn

Other creative attention signals include:

  • Word of the Day - use the word of the day as the trigger to start a transition or provide instructions.
  • Objects – such as a bell or a musical instrument.
  • Music – a short song can be used to allow students time to pack up and be ready to focus on the teacher

  Personalised Learning

When students with additional needs are being engaged with learning through the use of attention signals, there can be some potential barriers that need to be considered. These may include the immediacy of response, the need for a verbal response, or a noisy classroom environment. Some potential adjustments may include:

  • Provide additional practice for the student outside of instructional time.
  • Provide a visual of the verbal response: eg: small picture or card.
  • Reduce the response to one word only plus a gesture.
  • Combine verbal and visual attention signals eg: clap and words.
  • Special sign eg: a glittery star and words “Shiny star” .. “In the sky.”
  • Practice the signal and response with the student in an empty classroom to reduce sensory overload and allow for success in the whole class setting.


Attention Signals

This document outlines a range of Verbal and Non-Verbal examples of Attention signals.

Access resource

The Teacher Toolkit – Attention Signals

This site includes information on various attention signals. It includes illustrations of attention signals in both primary and secondary classrooms.

Access resource

Classroom Management: Attention Getting Signals (Wisconsin RtI Centre/PBIS Network)

This clip explains a variety of ways attention signals can be implemented in classrooms.

Access resource

Whole-Group Response Strategies to Promote Student Engagement in Inclusive Classrooms (2016) Nagro, S. Hooks, D. Fraser, D. and Cornelius, K

The authors review variations to whole group response strategies that accommodate the needs of various learners.

Access resource

Explore All Engagement Strategies