Relationship Building

50 Fresh Call and Responses to Use in Your Art Classroom Today

students posing

Alright, art teachers, hocus pocus, everybody focus! It’s time to look at how you get your students’ attention in class. You need your students to concentrate on you to settle your class for instruction, get them to pay attention to important directions, and move them from one task to the next. A call and response is a great way to do this!

A call and response involves the teacher calling out a word or phrase and the students repeating or responding with another. According to Zarretta Hammond, author of the foundational text, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, call and responses are deeply rooted in neuroscience.

teacher in front of class

Hammond says the “call” part of a call and response alerts students that something is about to happen. As a result, the brain starts paying attention differently. Novelty, physical sensation, and high personal relevance are what get the brain to pay attention best. This is why call and responses are so effective. Holy moly, guacamole, that’s cool!

Are you convinced but not sure where to start? Are you looking for some fresh call and responses to add to your classroom rotation? Do you need the inspiration to come up with your own? The great news is you can turn anything into a call and response!

play create inspire words

Check out this list of fifty art class call and responses for ideas.

1. Start class with an art mantra or affirmation.

  • I am positive. I am creative. I am mindful. I am amazing. I am an artist! (Students repeat each after you.)
  • I am… Proud, ready, and listening.
  • Give it your all… Give it my all!
  • The sun is shining bright… I’m feeling alright!
  • Today is a brand new day. (Students repeat.)
  • I can do challenging things… I won’t give up.
  • We make mistakes here… And it’s okay!
  • I welcome challenges. Challenges help me grow. (Students repeat each after you.)
  • My imagination… Knows no limits!
  • Affirmation Station… I am… (Students insert favorite affirmation.)

cup of markers

2. Remind students about art instructions and techniques.

  • Ahem. (Students repeat directions after you.)
  • Over under, over under. (For weaving; students repeat.)
  • Click, click… Clickety, clack. (For snapping lids on markers.)
  • Score and slip… Make it stick. (For clay projects.)
  • Swish, swish… Tap, tap. (For cleaning a brush between colors.)
  • Line, line… Dot, dot. (For liquid glue application.)
  • Rub, rub, rub until it… Stick, stick, sticks! (For glue sticks.)
  • Stack, stack, stack on the… Drying rack!
  • Where’s my name?… There’s my name.
  • Don’t be a toad… Write the class code!

frida kahlo print

3. Connect your lesson to art history.

pile of dvds

4. Draw on pop culture and media to add fun.

  • We don’t talk about Bruno… No, no, no!
  • Oh no! The table… It’s broken!
  • Chicken wing, chicken wing… Hot dog and baloney.
  • The volume inside this room is… Astronomical.
  • Are you ready kids?… Aye aye, Captain!
  • Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?… Spongebob SquarePants!
  • Paw Patrol… To the lookout!
  • Shark bait… Ooh haha.
  • Why don’t you… Say so!
  • Oh my Lordy Lord, is that a Starbucks Cake Pop?… Caaaake Pop!

students posing

5. Incorporate physical movement for an even greater impact.

  • Hey, Mona… Hey, Lisa. (Students sit like the Mona Lisa.)
  • Edvard Munch! (Students freeze in a scream pose.)
  • Can I get a DAB DAB? (Students dab and stay silent.)
  • The cold never bothered me anyway. (Students freeze.)
  • Hands on top… Everybody stop! (Students put their hands on their heads.)
  • Flat tire… Ssssssssss (Students “deflate” onto their desks.)
  • Next step! (Clap, clap, clap.) Next Step! (Clap, clap, clap.)
  • Paparazzi! (Students freeze in a pose.)
  • Who’s an artist?… I am! (Students point to themselves.)
  • Who loves you?… You do! (Students make the ASL sign for love.)

Here are some tips to help you implement call and responses successfully.

Chicka chicka boom boom. Now, you are well on your way to bringing fresh call and responses to your art class. Do you want to make it even easier?

Let’s take it one step further and look at implementation tips and tricks:

  • If you are just getting started with call and responses, choose one or two to introduce to your students.
    You will need to practice a few times to get used to the strategy. Pick the ones that work for you and ones you feel comfortable with. If you try one, and it’s not working for your class, change it. Take a look at these call and responses in action to get a feel for the technique! Piece of pie? Piece of cake.
  • If you are ready to take your call and response game to the next level, try out different voices, or use different ones for different grade levels.
    Add popular jingles or sport team chants from your area to this list. Come up with your own, or ask your students to use their creativity and brainstorm together. You can turn anything into a call and response. Cool? Whip!
  • If you are looking for non-verbal cues, use auditory and visual signals to engage the brain and body in what comes next.
    Stand in a certain spot and count down silently on your fingers. Throw up a symbol on your projector to indicate a certain activity. Incorporate clapping, tapping, chimes, bells, or other musical instruments to communicate a transition is coming. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Remember, the key is to give a novel signal to your students’ brains that it’s time to pay attention. To learn more about Zaretta Hammonds’s culturally responsive teaching strategies, check out this article, or get your hands on a copy of her book. It’s time to take your new call and response expertise and try it out today. Ready to rock? Ready to roll!

Which call and response will you try this week?

What other call and responses do you use in your art room?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Mariana VanDerMolen

Mariana VanDerMolen, an elementary art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She enjoys teaching for creativity, with a focus on ELL and therapy in a process-based art room.

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