Teaching Tip: The Countdown

You may not realize it, but your students have been conditioned to change their behavior when a countdown is introduced. Sports, games shows, and video games often use a countdown to mark the end or beginning of something important. Game theorists note the countdown strategy as one of the key ways that games manipulate players' behavior.

You can use the countdown in the classroom to bring every students' attention to you by following these steps.
  1. Stand at the front of the room and say in a loud voice, but without yelling, some version of the following prompts:
    • "Eyes on the teacher...5..."
    • "Be sure you are seated and facing forward...4..."
    • "Turn away from your neighbor and face front...3.."
    • "Stop talking to your friends and neighbors...2..."
    • "I should have your complete attention now...1..."
Helping your students learn this routine will make transitioning between activities much easier. Eventually, you'll be able to simply count down, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." and watch your students follow these steps and prepare themselves for a new learning activity.

You can also alternate the message within the countdown. If, for example, you want students to take out materials and prepare for an activity, you can embed those requests into the countdown in this way:
  1. Stand at the front of the room with your own copies of the materials you'd like them to take out, and say the following prompts:
    • "Eyes on the teacher...5..."
    • "Take out your textbook...4..."
    • "Turn to page 40...3.."
    • "Take out your notebook...2..."
    • "I should have your complete attention...1..."
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