A strategy that is simple, helps to hold students' attention, and can defuse a behavior situation before it gets out of hand is the use of humor! Personally, humor is one way to better engage me as a listener, so I use humor in the classroom all the time! When we use humor, the students can often better make connections to the content we're teaching; therefore, there is a better chance of them remembering it as well.
Studies indicate that the use of humor can motivate, can help to lessen stress and anxiety, and can improve one's self-esteem, as noted in the article, Why Use Humor in the Classroom? Wouldn't we love to have a classroom of students who are motivated, do not feel stressed, and feel good about themselves? Not to mention, if we're using humor, then we're feeling better, too! Did you know that when you smile, it automatically has a direct effect on improving your mood?
When using humor to defuse a discipline situation, we do sometimes have to be careful, as there are times when it may not be appropriate. For example, when a student is throwing chairs and cussing (as I mentioned in another post), I may not want to crack a joke with him! I could then be the target of one of those chairs!
If, however, Alexis comes up and says that Mary said she was dumb, I may respond, "Oh my gosh! Alexis, I had no idea! Are you seriously dumb?" She is likely then going to giggle with you at your unexpected response, which opens up the door for a more relaxed discussion about the situation. As I've talked about before, I'm a firm believer that it's best to talk with students about discipline situations to help them learn and grow from them, so defusing some of that frustration and anger before the discussion makes it much more productive.
It's important that you know your students before taking the humor approach in regards to discipline, as there are some kids who may not respond well to that humor approach, especially our students who are very literal. Obviously, we need to build relationships with our students in order to know them and what approach best meets their needs and make a professional decision accordingly based on the situation!
In terms of instruction, though, using humor is generally a win-win situation!