If you’re not using call and response in your classroom yet, this may just be the year to add it! The strategy for student attention-grabbing has extended far beyond education to sporting events, concerts and even the military over the years. 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 favorites to help with your classroom management. Keep reading for some ideas from the movies, music and a whole lot more!
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. The teaching strategy is typically verbal, but you can add in hand or body movements too.
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.” Not only does it capture students’ attention, but it refocuses them on the process of responding.
This tool is especially vital in elementary education as we are working with young students who don’t have the attention spans of older kids and adults.
How Long Should Student Attention Spans Be?
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 2nd-grade 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 you can use right now!
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 favorite call and response classroom examples.
Call and Response Ideas 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 out call and response cards for more daily life phrases so your students have a copy too!
Call and Response Ideas 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 to encourage listening in your classroom:
- 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: Tell me what you want …
- Response: What you really, really want.
Call and Response Ideas From Movies
Have a favorite 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!
- Call: Ru-Fee
- Response: Ohhhhh
Call and Response Ideas From Sports
Depending on where you’re teaching, you may want to call on the popular chants from local sports teams — or even your school district — to engage your students. Here are some of our favorites from around the US!
- Call: J-E-T-S
- Response: Jets, Jets, Jets!
- Call: Rock, chalk
- Response: Jayhawk!
- Call: We are
- Response: Penn State
- Call: Ole
- Response: Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole
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
We also recommend this fun back-and-forth to remind students of your expectations when leaving the classroom to head to the cafeteria or specials:
- Call: My eyes are…
- Response: Forward
- Call: My feet are…
- Response: Quiet
- Call: My hands are…
- Response: At my sides
- Call: My voice is…
- Response: Off
Let us know your favorite call and response phrases in the comments.
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Banner image via shutterstock/Anna Nahabed