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Behaviour Management

Call-and-Response 101

Call-and-response chants are a basic strategy that, if used well, will develop a high level of listening skills in your classroom. Are you maximising their effect?

The basics of classroom management are the basics for a reason: they work. Personally, a fundamental strategy for the younger classes that I use is call-and-response chants to get the whole class’ attention before I begin instruction. This is a very simple strategy that can prevent you from having to repeat instructions multiple times or speak over the class to get their attention.

To ensure this basic strategy works, I would advise (as always) explicitly teaching the expected behaviours attached to the call and response while praising any student who fulfils these expectations thereafter to maximise compliance.

Maintaining these consistent expectations and reinforcing regularly through praise or a reward system can ensure the listening skills in the room develop to a high level and students learn to really tune in to your voice when you use this strategy. Over-use can be detrimental to its efficacy and keeping it fresh will help ensure that it works systematically throughout the year.

To keep it novel, I suggest changing the call-and-response every month to ensure that children don’t become immune to it and to remind yourself to reiterate the expectations and continue reinforcing them. I’ve attached below a suggested call-and-response grid that might be useful for any interested teachers:

MonthTeacher CallStudent ResponseExpectation
September“Show me Five!”“Eyes are watching, Ears are listening, feet are still, hands are quiet, you should really try it, you should really try it, listening well, listening well.” (To the tune of Frere Jacque)Everything in the song is completed by the time the song is complete.
October“Hocus Pocus”“Everybody Focus”All children turn and point their finger towards the teacher (as if casting a spell) with their eyes on the teacher and their voice off.
November“Voices” (Loud voice)   “Voices” (Medium voice)   “Voices” (Whisper)“Shhhhh” (Loud Voice)   “Shhhhh” (Medium Voice)   “Shhhh” (Whisper”The teacher calls the first time loudly and the children respond loudly, the second one is responded to quieter before being fully silent and eyes on the teacher following the final call.
December“Zip it, Lock it…”“Put it in your pocket!”The teacher mimics zipping their lips and turning the key while the children mimic putting the key in their pocket before folding their arms and looking at the teacher with voices off.
JanuaryClap a pattern.Children repeat it.Repeat three different patterns. By the end of the final pattern, all conversation has stopped, and eyes are on the teacher with.
February“1..2..3..eyes on me..”“1..2..eyes on you..”Eyes focussed on the teacher and voices are off.
March“Hands on top”“That means stop”Children empty their hands and put their hands on their head with their eyes on the teacher and voices off.
April“Ready, Set?”“You bet!”If the children are ready to listen, they give you two thumbs up while they are looking at you silently.
May“L-I-S”“T-E-N”Children finish their conversation or activity immediately and watch the teacher for their next instruction.
June“Ready to Rock?”“Ready to Roll!”Children do a rolling motion with their two hands before folding them and looking at you attentively.

By Barry Whelan

A teacher with a huge interest in improving behaviour, communication and inclusion.

2 replies on “Call-and-Response 101”

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