3 Ways to Use Call and Response Chants for Classroom Management
One of the first things I do when I hop into new classrooms, whether it is my own or if I am visiting as a guest teacher, is teach students a quick chant or call and response. It may appear like it is an engagement strategy, but that’s not why I do it. It’s strictly for management (although engagement is an added bonus!). I don’t even know what it’s like anymore to teach without chants!
If you aren’t familiar with using call and response or chants in the classroom, here is what you do: you call something out and students respond. It really is that easy! Now usually there’s a little bit of rhythm in there and students are doing some type of hand motion, but that isn’t always necessary.
You’d be surprised how quickly students can pick up on an easy call and response and how impactful it is in getting students to do what you need them to do quickly. Students think it’s just a fun thing to do, but if you are intentional, chants can be something that really work for you in the classroom. Here are three ways I use call and response chants in the classroom to make things run more smoothly.
Refocus and Attention
Getting students’ attention or stopping everything in order to refocus is probably the #1 way I use chants in the classroom. Whether students are at their seats working with their table groups or moving around the room for a math scavenger hunt, I know I can rely on a good call and response to get students’ attention redirected to me. When students are working with math manipulatives, I have a very specific chant I use to get students to take their hands off the manipulatives and turn their attention to me.
If you are constantly struggling to bring students’ attention back in after a specific task or situation, you might want to consider coming up with a quick chant to prompt students to refocus whenever you’re doing that task.
Why is it that students run to the door to be first in line but then take their sweet time when transitioning between any two things in the classroom? That’s why there’s a chant for that! Whenever there was a transition I wanted student to do, and do quickly, we would do a little bit longer chant, that really could be classified as a song. Students knew that by the end of the chant they had to be in their seats and ready to listen to their next set of directions.
The key to using chants as a transitional tool is making sure the chant is not too long but also give students enough time to get to their seats. The chant you create will set the amount of time you give students to transition.
Every student loves to be celebrated! Some of our favorite chants were used to praise students for being bold, sharing their thinking with the class, or overcoming a struggle. Although this isn’t really a management tool, it does give students a quick little break to encourage another student and release a little energy. Instead of being used as a management tool, chants that are created to celebrate students can boost the culture of your classroom.
Tips for Creating Chants
Here are a few tips to get you started using call and response chants in your classroom!
Tip #1: Bring in things that are relevant. If there is something you hear students saying all the time, instead of letting it be a distraction during class, turn it into a chant that works as a management tool!
Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice. If you practice the chant with students on the front end, it will really pay off when you go to use the chant in the middle of a class later on.
Tip #3: When you’re teaching students the chant, make sure you are very specific about what students’ eyes/mouth/hands/feet/ears are doing during the chant and at the end of the chant. This will ensure that as soon as the chant is over, students are ready to listen to whatever you have to say next.
If you’d like to get some ideas of chants you can use with your students, follow me on Instagram @mixandmath. I’ve shared some chants I use and I can point you in the direction of other teachers who also use call and response in their classroom!
Check out the advice from my upper elementary teacher friends. Click on the advice to learn more about their tip for a successful school year and grab free reflection tools, checklists, questionnaires, and more!
Kerry Tracy of Feel-Good Teaching says, "Take the time to reconnect with your calling to get you through the rough patches!"
Tammy of Tarheelstate Teacher says, "At the end of the school year, reflect on your favorite lessons and experiences. Consciously plan to take what worked into the upcoming school year."
Tanya Yero Teaching says “Parent conferences are an excellent way to bridge the gap between school and home, but they can sometimes be a hard discussion to have. Here are six tips that will help you conduct successful, yet truthful parent conferences.”
Brittany Hege of Mix and Math says, “Incorporate call and response chants as part of your classroom management...It will work for you and is fun for students!”
Jeanine Schneider of Think Grow Giggle says, “The time spent building student relationships is the best time you will spend all year!”
Laura Hurley of Reading by Heart says, "Build decoding independence by giving your readers white boards and teaching them to 'operate on' words they want to decode. This tip shows you how."
Kathie Yonemura of Tried & True Teaching Tools says, “Find your teacher tribe!”