We lose many minutes of precious class time to inefficient, drawn-out transitions. This is especially true when we want our students to transition out of an activity that has gotten them talking with classmates!

Use signals to help students transition from one activity to the next

Here are three strategies that I used to get my students’ attention and signal a transition:

  1. Call and Response chants
  2. Ringing a bedazzled teacher bell
  3. Singing “Los pollitos dicen” and waiting for my students to join in

At the completion of one of these signals, my students were looking at me with closed mouths and pleading eyes, waiting with great anticipation to hear the next word that will leave my lips…. well, at least that was the expectation 😉

Call and response signals are an effective way to save class time by grabbing students' attention quickly and helping them transition to the next activity.

My go-to Call and Response chant

When it comes to Call and Response chants, there are as many as the stars in the sky! Try as I might, I always fell back on the same C&R chant that was modeled to me by my first teaching mentor:

Teacher: “A-B-C”

Students: “CH-CH-CH”

Teacher: “Español”

Students: “¡Olé!”

Find a Call and Response chant that works for you!

Thank you to everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and email that helped me to compile this list! I shared it at a workshop that I gave in sunny Southern CA on Saturday, and I hope that all of y’all will get lots of use out of it!

Call and response signals are an effective way to save class time by grabbing students' attention quickly and helping them transition to the next activity.

My favorite signals are those of an authentic nature: whether they present a custom to students (like the one from @grantboulanger about the three different wishes for a series of three sneezes), a common colloquial expression, an idiom, or even a line from a song or poem; forming your call and response signals from authentic language is an easy way to help your students enter into the target culture.

At the elementary level especially, it is also a good idea to attach a physical response of some sort to the students’ oral response. This also helps at the middle/high school level as students might not be listening to you and/or their classmates, but perhaps the physical movement will catch their eye and cause them to join in the attention-getting.

Remember to use your new Call and Response chants!

I loved to try to keep class novel by switching up the call and response signal that we used, although being a creature of habit I seemed to always fall back on old faithful. I would introduce a new call and response signal, and then I inevitably reverted back to the old standard before the week was out.

Ann Collard, who I met last summer at iFLT and saw again on Saturday at the CA workshop, said that she reminds herself to use specific call and response signals by posting the ‘signal of the week’ (or month, or unit) on a wall of her room. That way, she and her students which one they are currently using. Brilliant!

Find more Call and Response signals!

Beyond the Call and Response signals that I included here, there are many on this post at Spanish Playground, in this google doc by Laura Masci (with fun graphics!), and Michael Miller is the KING of Call and Response Signals (his are not language-specific, though, so I will have to include them on a future not-Spanish-specific chart).

Please share other Call and Response Signals that you have used in the comments, especially if they are in languages other than Spanish!

And in the meantime… call and respond away!

37 replies on “Call and Response signals for World Language classes

  1. Hi Martina! In Hebrew there are a few I use, though I never had a name for them! I will write in transliteration( obviously!) so they can be read.
    1. Teacher: Sheket, bevakasha- (quiet , please!)
    Students : clap and say: Hey! ( it is a rhythm type thing)
    I use this with all grade levels to get attention and quiet the class down. Kids love it.

    2. Teacher: Echat, shtayim, shalosh- (one, two , three)
    Students: hummus al ha rosh!- (hummus on your your head)
    Also used to get attention and just have fun. Obviously they lose something in the translation but you get the idea!

    Thanks for your ideas!

  2. I use these to get attention, and the kids learn a lot from it! Another favorite is ~ teacher: “A-E-I-O-U” students “El burro sabe más que tú” And then sometimes i say, “¡No me insultes!” 🙂

    1. Oh! Also, (after learning the song), teacher: “La cucaracha, la cucaracha” , students “ya no puede caminar,” sometimes followed by next 2 lines (teacher): “porque no tiene, porque le falta” and students: “una pata para andar.”

  3. I start every class with “Hoy es lunes (or whatever day it might be), hoy es lunes, ¿Cómo están? ¿Cómo están? The kids respond: “Muy bien, gracias. Muy bien, gracias. ¿Y usted? ¿Y usted?”
    They love it. Sometimes I change it to “Hace frío, hace frío or Mañana es viernes, mañana es viernes, etc.
    Sung to the beat of Freire Jaque (spelling???)

  4. ¡Ay de mi! ¿Qué pasó?
    ¡Basta! Ya no más!
    ¿Qué tal? Bien, por dicha!
    ¿Qué lástima! Pobrecito!
    ¡Felices Fiestas! Igualmente!
    ¡Felicidades! Muchas gracias!
    ¡Ayudame! Por favor!

    Not all mine! 🙂

  5. I love these! Thanks for collecting them in one place. I also use:
    ¡Clase clase clase! / ¡Mande mande mande! (Or ¡Profe Profe Profe!)
    ¡Ay, cuidado! / ¡Piso mojado!
    ¿No nada nada? / No traje traje.
    And when we do A-E-I-O-U / El burro sabe más que tú
    I’ll respond, indignantly ¿El burro sabe más que yo?
    And wag my finger while the sweet students say ¡no no no no no no no! and the mischievous ones say ¡Sí sí sí sí sí sí sí!

  6. These are great! One I use a lot is Teacher: Clase, clase Students: Profe, profe. ((from Leslie Davidson)
    I also love using call and response for the question words: Teacher:¿Quién? Class: hoo, hoo. Teacher: ¿Qué? One student’s job: ¿Qué what? With a little snap, and lots of attitude. Thanks for making this great list.

  7. And to pipe in for the French classrooms: I say “Marie-Antoinette” and the students reply with a “Squsss” sound as they pretend to slash their throats. They laugh every time. We also have “Napoleon!” and students pat their stomachs. But I haven’t thought to have the students necessarily reply in rhyme. I like that a lot.

  8. I’ll sometimes use part of a Spanish saying and add an action. For example, I’ll say, “En boca cerrada” and the students say, “No entran moscas,” and clap their hands over their mouths. Or “A lo hecho” and the students say, “Pecho” and slap their chest. Use whatever saying you want.

  9. Martina, is it possible to add these new ones to the “poster” you have above? If you can’t, do you know if it’s editable?

  10. I love this growing compilation.

    My students just talk me this from their teacher last year…

    “A—E—I-O-U (pronounced in Spanish), El burro sabe más que tú”

    I haven’t thought out yet how to make it a bit less insulting, but the general rhyme with the vowels is great. Teachers starts with “A—E” and then students join in the rest. The first two vowels are said a bit slower than the final 3. I am chanting it right now… can you hear it? 🙂

    1. My students LOVE this rhyme, and yes…it’s technically insulting…but I don’t think that my students have ever used it as a ‘real’ insult. It usually makes an appearance in storyasking, where nothing is taken very seriously 🙂

      1. My students just *taught* me…

        Right Martina, not really an insult. Do you know, is this a traditional Mexican chant of some sort? I has assumed that their previous teacher made it up.

      2. Honestly, I’m not sure what the origins are–if it’s authentic or just an old Spanish teacher thing. Hm, if only there were some sort of virtual database that I could search and find the answer to any question I could ever want….can’t think of one. We may never know! Kidding. Off to google…

      3. Back in the 90s when I was an educational assitant in a bilingual classroom, Mrs Olga Miller was the best Kindergarten teacher. I saw her teach the class a poem about El burro.

        A, a, a, el burro no está.
        E, e, e, el burro se fue.
        I, i, i, el burro no está aquí.
        O, o, o, el burro no soy yo.
        U, u, u, el burro eres tú.

  11. I can assure you most Spanish speaking kids grow up with this rhyme. Some how we never think of it as insulting, but rather funny.

  12. Hi Martina,

    I love this call and response idea. Do you know where I can find some in Mandarin? Thanks!!

  13. This will be my first year to do this (starting in August). After teaching the alphabet song (the one form “Sing, Dance, and Eat Tacos”), I am going to do the first line “A, B, C, CH, D, E, F” and have the students repeat “G, H, I, J, K” (with Spanish pronunciations, por supuesto!)…although, really…almost anywhere in the song would be good….. might use the last two lines “Yo se el alfabeto” and have the students answer with “OLE!”

  14. I also use one that I took from Alina Filipescu during NTPRS 2017
    Teacher: uno – dos – tres
    Students; No Inglés!!!

    My students LOVE it! And sometimes when a student is speaking in English they are the ones who say the whole thing.

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