20+ Call and Response Ideas for the Classroom from Music, Movies and More

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Updated | 4 min read

Do you use call and response in your classroom? The strategy for student attention-grabbing has extended far beyond education to sporting events and concerts. But, there’s nothing like a teacher standing in front of the classroom, calling out a phrase and hearing the students share the response.

If you’re looking to add teacher call and response to your classroom or looking for new phrases to add to your repertoire, the teachers on the Teach Starter team have put together some of our very favourites to help with your classroom management.

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What Is Call and Response in Education?

New to the concept? In a nutshell, call and response is a statement by one person (or group) followed by an answering statement by another person or group. In a musical setting, that can mean a performer calls out a popular line from a song and then turns the microphone on the crowd to follow up with the next line.

In the classroom, call and response is typically used by a teacher as a cue for students to stop what they’re doing and pay attention.

So, for example, a teacher may call out ‘1, 2, 3, eyes on me,’ and students know to stop what they’re doing and respond with ‘1, 2, eyes on you.’ This tool is especially vital in primary education as we are working with young students who don’t have the attention spans of older kids and adults.

Student Attention Spans

We don’t have to tell you that students have short attention spans — it’s one of many reasons why brain breaks are so important for the learning process. The experts on childhood brain development tell us a reasonable attention span to expect of a child is two to three minutes per year of their age. That means that your average year 2 student is only going to stay keyed in for about 14 minutes before their mind begins to wander, and they will be more easily distracted by classmates or that butterfly floating past the classroom window.

In general, here’s how long you can expect a student to focus — although it’s important to note that every child is different, and individual students may be able to focus for much longer or much shorter spans of time:

  • 2 years old: 4 to 6 minutes
  • 4 years old: 8 to 12 minutes
  • 6 years old: 12 to 18 minutes
  • 8 years old: 16 to 24 minutes
  • 10 years old: 20 to 30 minutes
  • 12 years old: 24 to 36 minutes
  • 14 years old: 28 to 42 minutes
  • 16 years old: 32 to 48 minutes

Making your lessons engaging and as fun as possible can help keep students engaged, and adding brain breaks will help, but it’s only natural that you will need to bring students’ back around to the lesson — their brains are still developing. That’s where call and response is key!

Explore printable brain break activities for your primary students!

Call and Response Classroom Examples

When it comes to picking calls — and responses — you can really mine from anywhere in life from popular songs to sports chants to onomatopoeia. Here are some of our favourite call and response classroom examples.

Call and response from daily life

  • Call: Flat tire!
  • Response: Shhhhhhhh.
  • Call: Macaroni and cheese
  • Response: Everybody freeze.
  • Call: Hocus pocus!
  • Response: Everybody focus!
  • Call: Banana split …
  • Response: I know how to sit!

Teach Starter Teacher Tip: Print these fun call and response cards for more daily life phrases so your students have a copy too!

cards with call and response ideas for teachers all laid out on a desk

Call and response from songs

When kids already know the songs you’re sing-songing as a call and response attention-getter, it gets even more fun! Try these songs on for size:

  • Call: Chicken wing, chicken wing.
  • Response: Hot dog and baloney, chicken and macaroni, chillin’ with my homies. 
  • Call: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • Response: Spongebob squarepants!
  • Call: Peanut butter
  • Response: Jelly time!
  • Call: Mo money?
  • Response: Mo problems! 
  • Call: Alright, stop!
  • Response: Collaborate, and listen! 
  • Call: Stop!
  • Response: It’s hammer time! 
  • Call: Goodness gracious
  • Response: Great balls of fire. 
  • Call: Gangnam
  • Response: Style
  • Call: Wake me up!
  • Response: Before you go, go.
  • Call: Everybody
  • Response: Have fun tonight!
  • Call: If you have a problem …
  • Response: Yo, I’ll solve it!
  • Call: Bidi bidi
  • Response: Bom bom!

Call and response from movies

Have a favourite movie quote? They make for great call and response too!

  • Call: Shark bait. 
  • Response: Ooh ha ha!
  • Call: To infinity! 
  • Response: And beyond! 
  • Call: Do you wanna …
  • Response: Build a snowman?
  • Call: Hakuna?
  • Response: Matata
  • Call: Wax on?
  • Response: Wax off!
  • Call: May the force … 
  • Response: Be with you!
  • Call: ET
  • Response: Phone home!

Longer call and response sequences

You may opt for longer call and response sequences that make sure your kids are truly engaged and paying attention. These require you to make several calls, and your class needs to be ready with multiple responses! For example:

  • Call: Class?
  • Response: Yes?
  • Call: Class, class?
  • Response: Yes, yes?
  • Call: Class, class, class?
  • Response: Yes, yes, yes

Looking for more ideas to get your classroom’s attention? Explore our favourite classroom management resources for teachers!

Let us know your favourite call and response phrases in the comments.


Banner image via shutterstock/Anna Nahabed


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