“If only I had more time in a school day…”
Have you ever caught yourself uttering this phrase? You can easily add those instructional minutes to your day by explicitly planning for your transition times. Carefully considered transition times offer the key to maintaining an optimal learning environment, minimizes disruptions and behavior problems while maximizing instructional time. By providing the structure of predictable routines, procedures and behavioral expectations, teachers offer their students, including second language learners and those who struggle with poor attention and impulsivity, an avenue to success during transition times.
Effective and Efficient Transitions
Plan for the transition periods in advance. Take a few minutes and think about the transition times that occur in your classroom.
Common transition times include:
- entering the classroom first thing in the morning
- changing from one subject to another
- leaving or coming into the room after assemblies recesses or lunch
- clean up time at the end of the day
The first step in planning for transition times is selecting a signal that you will use for each transition time. Be consistent and use the same signal for all transitions. Make sure it is a visual and auditory signal. Provide enough “wait time” for students to respond.
Choose a method to instill a “sense of urgency” to the transition. Students respond well to the feeling that their work and time is important. By giving the situation “a sense of urgency” students respond quickly. Set a timer, count, or sing a song to give students that “sense of urgency. Often simply saying, “Class we have 40 seconds to enter the room quietly and slowly, return to our desks/tables safely and begin reading. Ready go.” is sufficient to instill that sense of urgency.
Always follow the same procedure. During transition times where students leave the room, teach them to put their materials away, stand up, push in their chairs, move slowly and safely to the door. During transition times to the next activity include an activity that will help children adjust to the change. Consider adding a quick opportunity to stretch, a song that focuses on the new activity or subject, skip counting or reciting a poem. This gives students a break to readjust and provides slower students a bit more time to complete the transition. Be deliberate in ending this very short brain break. Go right to work, don’t waste time here. This creates a “sense of urgency” and shows your students that you value their time and work.
Be consistent. Smooth transitions occur when students know what to do and how to do it. Adhere to your schedule. Have work ready for students. As students enter each morning have a plan for exactly what they will do as they enter. Look at your morning and plan for success. Teach students to enter the room and:
- Hang up backpacks, jackets and coats
- Turn in homework
- Sign up for hot or cold lunch
- Find their seats
- Begin reading, handwriting or whichever morning activity you choose
Consider playing music or setting a timer the students can hear for the first minute students are entering the room. Be very consistent and choose the same amount of time the music ends or the timer goes off in order to create that “sense of urgency”. Transition times will be efficient and productive parts or your educational day when you value your students’ time and work.
Finally, good teaching of any routine and procedure is the key to success. Remember to explain the expected behavior, explicitly model the routine and procedure, practice, practice, practice and finally provide feedback. Congratulations, you are on your way to smooth, efficient, and safe transition times.
We created a helpful worksheet you can download for free. Click here to download, My Plan for Smooth & Efficient Transitions!
What strategies and activities do you use during transition times? Please share your ideas with us!
About the Author
Lori Wolfe has taught English Language Development, bilingual 1st & 2nd grades, and as a Title I Reading and Math specialist. She also presents professional development workshops, develops curriculum and blogs. Follow her blogs at Fun To Teach ESL and Fun To Teach Math Blog for more great teaching ideas, tips, freebies and more. You can also find Fun To Teach on Facebook.