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Attention Getters

Sometimes, no matter what we do, we just need something new to add to our arsenal of attention getters to keep the primary children interested. Some weeks are just a little tougher than others. Here are some tried and true ideas that I have used in the past, both in sharing time and primary music. Hopefully there is something here that you can use or will help you to have a spark of an idea to create your own attention getter.

ATTENTION GETTING SUGGESTIONS

Clapping rhythms work REALLY well. Clap a rhythm, then have the children try to follow it. (short sequences)

Give Simon Says type instructions (put your hands on your hips, on your toes, wave them in the air, etc.) then put your hands in the air, grab your elbows, pull your elbows down in front, and voila! their arms are folded.

The cub scout sign--two fingers of your right hand extended in the air. All cub scouts know that this signal means come to attention. They take pride in being the first to respond by raising their own signal because they know what to do. The two fingers represent the ears of a wolf (one of the Cub Scout ranks) ready to listen.

Say, "If you can hear me, put your finger on your nose" or “Hold your ear”.

Song "Roll your hands"--a cappella, of course. We do it quickly first and say "fold them up like me, like me, and fold them up like me" quite fast. Then we do the slow verse, ending once again quickly and quietly on "fold them up".

Finger play: "Here's the church, here's the steeple" and then use my hands in the church position to sing "The Chapel Doors" with the steeple part of the church against my lips.

Call the children by name. If you don't know their names, they don't feel like they have to respond.

Flick the lights of the room off and on.

Praise individual children by name who show behaviors you want, “Jenny sang so well”, “I like how Johnny was watching me the whole time.” Be specific and sincere. Praise them only if they do well! Make them earn it!

Above all, be prepared. If the kids are used to giving you their full attention, because you consistently have something that merits their attention, the attention comes naturally.

Children love to write on chalkboards and white boards. Pick children one by one to silently write their names on the board under a heading, “I am reverent” or “I sang well”. This would be a good way to learn the children’s names.

Play "Open them, Shut them" (open and shut your hands as you say these words, and they will follow along). Vary your hand opening and shutting in speed and occasionally throw in a surprise like, "open them, open them, open them!" The juniors especially love this. Then when they're all watching and playing along quietly say, "Now, fold them in your lap." It works great!

Say, "I want to see your eyes!", then start looking around the room at the children's eyes who were looking at her and comment on them. "Ooo. . .your eyes are blue!" "Yours have pretty lashes!" "Your eyes look happy", etc. It only takes a few moments before every child is looking your way.

Start singing a song (no accompaniment) and it will surprise them enough that they'll stare at you!

Pitch lead and have the children follow along with you (a good way to learn a song with an unusual melody)

Stop the song and Wait if the children are not paying attention, do not continue until you have their attention.

Use a “Sing-o-meter” that measures how well the children are singing, such as a kite on a string that flies higher and higher as the children sing louder.

Make them get it right! If they sing it wrong, STOP them and teach them the correct way, then sing it again.

Make them watch you closely! Teach them the signals so they know when to come in, when to stop, when to go faster or slower, louder and softer. Make a game of it and change quickly so they have to watch very closely. Eye contact and hand signals make it fun!

Help them see how the music changes, and how the music matches the words. For example, in “He Sent His Son”, the music rises when you sing “rise with Living Breath”. And in “I Lived in Heaven”, the music goes low when you sing “earth” as if you are coming down to earth.

Tell them to all close their eyes. If everyone doesn't hear you at first, they will. Then tell them to touch their ears, touch their eyes, their elbows, toes (you get the point). When everyone is following your instructions, you know you have their attention and you could say something like, "Now everyone listen to what I'm going to say next."

Do a cheer of " Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, Choose the Right!" Do it several times very slowly adding some actions. Then lead it very fast so they have to be watching closely in order to follow. After about three times, tell them to puff out their cheeks and hold it....hold it....hold it.....and while they are holding it, quietly ask the pianist to play something reverent. Have the pianist play one verse of the song you want to sing and then sing it.

Play "Open them, Shut them" (open and shut your hands as you say these words, and they will follow along). Vary your hand opening and shutting in speed and occasionally throw in a surprise like, "open them, open them, open them!" The junior Primary will especially like this. When they're all watching and playing along, quietly say, "Now, fold them in your lap." It works great!

Say, "I want to see your eyes!", then start looking around the room at the children's eyes who are looking at you and comment on them. "Ooo. . .your eyes are blue!", "Yours have pretty lashes!", "Your eyes look happy", etc. It should only takes a few moments before every child is looking your way to get you to notice their eyes!

Start singing a song (no accompaniment) and it will surprise them enough that they'll stare at you! Some will even join in, and soon the room is reverent.

Have them follow a series of Simon Says type instructions (put your hands on your hips,on your toes, wave them in the air, etc.). Then have them put hands in the air, grab their elbows, pull their elbows down in front, and surprise! their arms are folded.

Hold up the cub scout sign-- the two fingers of your right hand extended in the air. All cub scouts know that this signal means come to attention. They should take pride in being the first to respond by raising their own signal because they know what to do.

Teach the song, "I want to be a missionary now", with clapping. Don't add the words. Start clapping the rhythm when they start getting noisy. They should recognize it and join in. It takes enough concentration that, as they join in, that will become focused.

Say, "If you can hear me, put your finger on your nose." The children who are not listening look around and wonder why their friend has a finger on his nose.

Sing, "Roll your hands"--a cappella, of course. Do it quickly first and say "fold them up like me, like me, and fold them up like me" quite fast. Then do the slow verse, ending once again quickly and quietly on "fold them up".

Do any finger play. For example: "Here's the church, here's the steeple"...you might sing "The Chapel Doors" with the steeple part of the church against your lips.

A picture of depicting reverence or any new picture will grab their attention. Make sure it's large enough for them to see.

Call the children by name. If you don't know their names, they don't feel like they have to respond.

Have a different counselor call them to attention. Sometimes hearing the same voice all the time makes it easier to not listen. Say, "If you can hear my voice, place your hand ..." Get softer as the noise level decreases, until everyone is paying attention.

Have a "reverence box". Put something inside that is something important to you. For example: family picture, special scripture, souvenir, etc.). If the children get out of control, remove the box from the front of the room. As they settle down, bring it back out. If it is out at the end of the sharing time, the presidency member shares what was inside. (This is more of an on-going reverence activity as opposed to bringing them back quickly.)

Use the phrase, "Lights, Camera, Action" (You say, "lights, camera" and the children say "action" and they freeze where ever they are). You might change the phrase to a church theme....

Evaluate why you don't have their attention. Above all, be prepared. If the children are used to giving you their full attention, because you consistently have something that merits their attention, the attention comes naturally.

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