I've made many mistakes over the years. When I look back at how I taught 5 or 10 years ago, I sometimes shake my head. I think we can say that what I've learned in management has been a case of begging, stealing and borrowing other people's ideas.
Here are 3 things that have really helped me in terms of getting and keeping student attention. I think as a teacher, this can be the biggest first challenge. If students are not engaged or at least listening, no matter how great your lesson, they are not learning.
1: Class - Yes
I've tried holding up my hands, I've tried flicking the lights, a chime and many other techniques. I now have one that works like a charm, and works every time. When I say "class," my students say "yes." What I like about this is that the technique is fast, everyone can hear, and we can have fun with it. If I say Class in a silly voice, they say class in a silly voice. If I whisper class, they whisper class.
Here is more information on starting with Class - Yes.
When I talk, I sometimes hold up my hands and say, "Mirror." When I do this, my students also hold up their hands and say, "Mirror." What this means is that the students have to pretend they are a mirror. Whatever I do with my hands and body, they have to copy. My students love this, I can see who is engaged and it keeps my active students moving and on task. Here is more information on how to use Mirror in the classroom.
3: High, Pause, Low
When I want students attention, I start by getting their attention, pause, and then lower my voice. High, pause, low. You would be amazed by the difference this makes. It takes a few seconds, but really gets people's attention. It is counter-intuitive to talk quieter when you want students to listen, but it works. Try it out!
Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:
RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life