Call and Response Signals

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! I traditionally get my students’ attention with this Call and Response sequence:

Teacher: “A-B-C”

Students: “CH-CH-CH”

Teacher: “Español”

Students: “¡Olé!”

…at which point my students are 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 is what they are supposed to be doing.

I love to keep class exciting by switching up the call and response signal that we use, although I must admit that it is not easy for me since I am a creature of habit. I introduce a new call and response signal, and then I inevitably revert back to the old standard. Ann Collard, who I met last summer at iFLT and saw again on Saturday, said that she keeps her call and response signals straight by posting them on a wall of her room. That way, she and her students which one they are currently using. Brilliant!

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

Beyond the ones that I’ve 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). Anyway, call and respond away!

Call and response signals

35 thoughts on “Call and Response Signals

  1. yeven says:

    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. emramona says:

    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!” 🙂

    • emramona says:

      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. Katie Sevilla says:

    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. Lynda Pilgreen says:

    ¡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. annyewing says:

    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. Elissa McLean says:

    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. Wendy Organ says:

    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. Melody says:

    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. Lynda says:

    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. Jim Tripp says:

    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? 🙂

    • Martina Bex says:

      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 🙂

      • Jim Tripp says:

        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.

      • Martina Bex says:

        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…

  11. Marisol says:

    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. Tabbatha Higginbotham says:

    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!”

  13. Carmen Ladman says:

    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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