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.



Filed under procedure/organization, social skills, Transitions

6 responses to “Give Me Five! Getting Your Preschoolers’ Attention

  1. I like the countdown idea. These are some good ideas to pass on to my teachers.

  2. Catherine McMahon

    Love this technique! Used it in my classroom this first week.

  3. Pingback: When It Comes to Challenging Child Behaviors, Do You Take the Time to CARE? « Not Just Cute

  4. Pingback: When It Comes to Challenging Child Behaviors, Do You Take the Time to CARE? | Not Just Cute

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