March 26, 2012

Favorite Phrases

I seem to have an influx of visitors (Thanks Mimi and MathyMcMatherson!) so now seems like a great time to conduct the poll I've been planning.  All teachers have a few key phrases that they use on a regular basis.  They are verbal cues that your students learn to react to.  I don't remember deciding on any of these, but they are the ones that I find myself saying over and over.  A month or so ago I was visiting a friend who is an elementary school teacher and she had a sheet full of really corny call and response ideas to use with kids.  As silly as they seem, I have no doubt they work.  I wouldn't mind adding a bit of fun to my transitions or classroom repertoire, but none on the list felt right to me.  That's where you come in!

Most Heard Phrases in my classroom:
"I need eyes up here and voices quiet" (by the time I say quiet, I'm speaking quietly)
"defend your answer" (the first few times I tell them to pretend to be lawyers providing evidence)
"use nice words" (when I hear anything that doesn't fit my definition of respectful)
I've used these three often enough that kids can both anticipate and complete them.  I'm sure I have others, but these are the only ones that jump out as phrases where I use the exact same wording every time.

My co-worker uses a call and response where she says/sings "red robin" and they say "yummm" (and their mouths have to stay closed on the mmm sound).  If the shoe fits...  I hope those students don't arrive in my classroom next year expecting me to sing to them every day though, since that's really not me!

What are your favorite phrases?  Did you pick them on purpose or did they happen organically?


  1. Well, I'm a college teacher, so I don't have the rituals for getting them quiet that I'd want at high school level.

    I often ask for "thumbs up, down, or sideways" to indicate their level of understanding. After a while, I can just say 'thumbs'.

  2. I use something I learned from @btwnthenumbers:

    "If you can hear the sound of my voice, clap once."
    "If you can hear the sound of my voice, clap twice."
    *clap* *clap*

    I sometimes have to go as far as "three," but not often. I like that this model gives students a collaborative and non-confrontational role in gather the whole class' attention.

    - Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

    1. I've used that one a couple times. It reminds me of another I use: I have kids vote on things (raise your hand if you think it's true, or the answer is A) and sometimes I don't get a lot of responses. To check if they're with me but not understanding the question or if half the class has mastered sleeping with their eyes open I'll say "raise your hand if you're listening." It's funny to watch the kid whose partner has to say "psst, raise your hand!"

  3. Whenever I have to step out of the room for a moment or they are about to have a sub (when I know), I always ask them "What's my one rule?" to which they reply "No fire!" There are actual historical reasons for this rule involving a lighter and hair and my 2nd year teaching. I remain thankful it wasn't the 80s.

    1. You cannot leave us hanging like that! Story time, please.

  4. I'm with Sue--I use the thumbs up/thumbs down as well. Probably the questions I ask the most are "Why?" and "How are we doing?"

    I really like your "defend your answer." Very nice.

  5. My phrases are content-specific.

    A few:
    Your BFF (best formula forever): y=mx+b

    When doing integer operations, before doing the calculations i have them determine the sign of the answer. I say, in a laughingly sexy voice, "Hey Baby..What's your sign?" They start saying it to one another pretty soon after that.

    1. My BFF is point-slope, I like my friends to be flexible so we can go to yoga together ;) I like the 'What's your sign?' it's memorable I'm sure!

  6. To get their attention, I say: "on the count of three. One..." or "eyes and ears on me"

    To NOT give them attention, I say: "nobody cares" (seriously :) I teach middle school, so much drama, and they think it's funny when I say this.

    1. Sometimes not giving them attention is much more important than getting their attention!

      You just reminded me that someone says "When I say go *insert instructions*. Go." to make sure that you can get out all the information before they start. Anyone want to claim that structure?

  7. "All eyes on me" always gets my kids singing Tupac but it does get their attention.

    I also learned "back up here with me in 3-2-1" as you walk to the board from Dan Meyer. This one is great: