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We are going to have a bit of fun this week talking about 12 of the best transition ideas I’ve found so that you can easily create a routine for between activities AND for transitions when your students are all lined up and waiting to leave the classroom.
Heaven knows that if you have kids all lined up with nowhere to go, that can quickly become a disaster because within 30 seconds they are bored and will look for ways to entertain themselves if you don’t give them something to do. 🙄
I’ve had a lot of teachers tell me that one of their biggest challenges as a new teacher is time management, and if you are spending too much time throughout the day moving from one activity to another and if you don’t have a clear process or routine for doing so, you are going to feel like your day is a little chaotic.
You’ll probably also feel the cumulative effects of feeling like you didn’t accomplish nearly enough with your students if you don’t have quick, clear, and effective ways to transition from one activity or lesson to the next.
Before we dive in, I have to be honest... as a new teacher, I really had no idea that I even needed a routine for transitions between subjects or lessons.
However, when I realized how much time I was actually wasting trying to get the kids settled and in their desks again so we could start the next lesson, I realized that this was something I really needed to work on.
It wasn’t just the time we were wasting - I also realized that by the time my kids actually got focused again, I was EXHAUSTED because I spent so much of my time saying things like...
“What are you doing?”
“Let’s get started,”
“Time to stop talking!”
Sound familiar? I spent so much of my energy trying to get my kids focused again that I was worn out before I even began my lesson. I knew it was bad when even I began to hate the sound of my own voice - lol!
So today, I’m going to share some great ideas that worked for me, and I’m going to walk you through how I actually taught my students how to do transitions in my class.
My goal is that by the end of this episode, you will be able to create your own clear plan for how you will be able to establish a transition routine (or several) that work for your own classroom.
Before we get started, I want to be clear that teaching your students a routine for how to transition from one lesson to the next needs to be taught as carefully as anything else you teach in your classroom.
This might seem obvious to you, or you might be more like I was and be thinking, “What? This isn’t that complicated.”
However, here’s what I learned and what became clearer to me the longer I worked with kids:
You can’t take ANYTHING for granted. EVER. Things that seem like common sense to you and to me is NOT common sense for kids, simply because they have not had years and years of school to become practiced in these kinds of things.
It may seem like common sense to you and to me that we shouldn’t waste a lot of time in between classes to transition to the next thing, but your students are not that concerned about it and certainly won’t even give a thought about it until or unless you have taught them exactly what you want, and unless there is some kind of a consequence, either positive or negative, on them.
So, let’s begin with an example of a common transition routine I used in my classroom, and then I’ll break it down for you and share with you how I taught it (and what happened if my students didn’t follow the routine).
You might be thinking – well, all of that sounds great, but most of my students still wouldn’t be in their desks, and they probably wouldn’t care much if I had to tell them about 15 times to get back to their seats so we could start.
That used to happen to me, too.
So, what I did was let my students know that if they made the class wait – if they weren’t ready to learn by the time I got to “Zero noise,” I would simply tell those students that they had lost the privilege of free time to talk to their friends during transitions for the rest of the day.
Gulp. Yup, that's what happened. Every - single - time!
It's a natural consequence, right? And it worked.
Instead, during transition breaks for that day (or for the entire next day if it happened towards the end of the day), I would have that student or those students come over to me and I would hand them a rag with a bit of cleaning solution on it, and ask them to do a bit of cleaning that I needed done (in separate areas of the classroom, by the way).
Now, that wasn’t nearly as much fun as getting a few minutes of free time to chat with their friends, so it never lasted more than a day. 😉
Simple and easy-peasy.
In addition, I took a lot of time to carefully teach my students exactly what they were allowed to do and not allowed to do during our transition time, and I constantly gave them very specific feedback about what they were doing well and what we needed to work on.
Also, I stayed with the same transition routine for at least a few weeks before I added in another option.
So, for the first few weeks of school, for example, my students knew that during breaks, they would hear one of their favorite songs, and that when it was time to come back to their desks, that I would count down to “zero noise.”
In the beginning of the year, you may even want to use the same song each time until your students get used to this routine in your classroom.
Once they were used to this routine and were really good at it, I would teach them a second transition routine and begin to mix it up a bit.
However, I would suggest that you stay with the same transition routine for a while until you are sure that your students can be successful at it before you add in something else, or your students may end up just being confused and the routines that you are using to save time could actually end up wasting even more time because everybody’s confused and doesn’t quite know what to do.
So, choose one routine that you are super clear about and that is easy for your students to follow and that they can be successful at before you add in some others.
(By the way, my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy members had a whole lot of fun generating some of these ideas, included in the freebie below, during a Facebook challenge I led. These are ALL classroom tested ideas that I think will spark your own creativity and imagination for your classroom!)
So there you have it! Twelve practical and classroom-tested ideas for how you can make transitions more manageable in your classroom. I hope that as we’ve talked about some of these, that your imagination was inspired for what you might like to do in your own classroom.
It’s important to remember that kids need transitions just as much as we do – they really need little breaks throughout the day to take a brain break, stretch, move, and have the freedom to talk to their friends.
Allowing for and planning for regular transition breaks throughout the day will help your students to remain better on-task during lessons.
However, remember, that just as important as transition are, your ability to ensure that your students are on task and ready again when you are ready to move on to the next activity is also very important.
You can use my simple trick of counting back from 10 to “Zero noise,” or you can use a chime, a bell, or even a stuffed cow who giggles, but there are also tons of great “call backs” you can use to get your students’ attention quickly and easily.
For example, you can say “Holy Moly” and your students then respond “Guacamole!”
I’ve created super fun and colorful call-back cards with 20 of my favorite call-backs that are available for purchase in my new store, Beginning Teacher Talk, on Teachers Pay Teachers for you that you can display and use with your class so you can keep changing up the call-back you use in your classroom:
Also, don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of my Transitions Cheat Sheet so you can keep all of these ideas handy in your classroom:
Finally, I really don’t want you to miss next week’s episode, because it’s going to be an awesome one!
I am going to share 10 of my favorite books to use in the classroom for Halloween, and I’m going to tell you about how you can create an adorable glow-in-the-dark haunted house literacy project with your students – your kids are going to absolutely love this, so you don’t want to miss it!
If you’ve enjoyed this episode and you know another teacher who you think would benefit from it, please go ahead and share this with one friend who you know would like it.
The only way we are going to survive in this profession is by taking care of each other, so please go ahead and share this episode with someone who you know might really benefit from it.
And finally, if you're feeling extra loving, I would deeply appreciate it if you would leave a review for this podcast on iTunes.
Until next week, remember that just because you are a beginning elementary teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one! I hope you have a fabulous week.
Bye for now!
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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