Give Me Five! Getting Your Preschoolers’ Attention

It is a common misconception that preschool children know what it means when you ask them to “listen”.  Grown ups constantly ask them to “listen” or “pay attention”, but a young child can’t comply with those requests until you explain what that will actually look like.  

I teach my little ones the “Give Me Five” signal.  When I need my very best listeners, I hold up my hand and say, “Give Me Five…Four..Three..Two..One” as I slowly count down with my fingers as well.  At “One” I put the single finger in front of my mouth for a quiet “shhh”.  The children usually follow along, shhh-ing as well, bringing us all to a quiet spot.  But listening is more than just being quiet, so I teach how  to listen using the FIVE.   The first time I use it, I tell them there are important parts to being a good listener, that they can remember as we count down.

5…Your eyes are looking.

4…Your body is still.

3…Your hands are to yourself.

2…Your ears are listening .

and 1…Shhhh. Your mouth is quiet.  We’re ready to listen!

(I’ve even made a big poster drawing of a hand and put pictures of eyes, bodies, etc. on each finger as a visual reminder.)

I’ll repeat this long version the first few times I use “Give Me Five”, often changing it up to reinforce those behaviors (5…Danny’s eyes are looking, 4…Oh, wow, Jill’s body is so still….), then I shorten to just counting, but pointing out children that are doing the specific behaviors once we finish counting, thanking them for being good listeners.

I don’t use this every time I want someone’s attention, I think they would tire of it.  But I use it frequently at the beginning, to teach listening skills, and then I use the “5-4-3-2-1 shhh” when I need to get everyone’s attention during a busy time (while they’re talking during snack, or a project for example).  I also use it as a quick reminder at times such as large group, using my hand as a signal and saying, “Who’s giving me five?  Oh wow!  Yen is such a great listener!”  Try this out with your little ones, and see if teaching them how to listen will help them to listen!

Photo Courtesy StillSearc.



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