Lesson Transitions

Mastering Classroom Transitions

A unsuccessful attempt to divide 35 disgruntled middle schoolers into tiny groups caused my credibility to disintegrate in front of eight Georgia educators while I was delivering a demo class in front of eight Georgia instructors. The teachers who were watching pretended not to notice, which was admirable.

Transitions that go wrong are not only embarrassing, but they also cost time. If you save 15 minutes each day through more effective transitions, that equates to an additional 45 hours of instructional time per year for your students. Because of this, it is important to get the transition from one duty to another just so.

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There are three types of transitions: entering class and taking a seat, transitioning from one academic activity to another, and exiting class. Entering class and taking a seat is the first type of transition. In the same way that any academic activity is taught, transitions are taught through precise explanations, clear models, rehearsals, and reviews of the material.

Transitioning from reading to arithmetic, or from physical education to the drinking fountain, author Mike Linsin suggests standardising the process with five phases, which I would rephrase as follows:

Keeping students’ attention is important. “Please keep your attention on me.”
Inform students about the process by saying, “Please return to your desks and take out your history textbooks.”
Prepare your children for when the signal to begin will be given: “When I say’smooth,’ you’ll quietly follow my instructions.”
“And… smooth,” you say to begin the changeover. Linsin advises kids not to use the word “go” since it will lead them to race.
Monitor: Keep an eye out for any students who are not following directions.


The time has come to don your symbolic Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat and think on the following questions when transitions are taking too long or learners are misbehaving.

Is it possible that I gave too many or too few directions?
Is it true that the transition caught students off guard when they were engrossed in a particular activity?
Did a disproportionate number of children have nothing to do?
Is there a specific group of pupils who wreaked havoc?
After you’ve answered those questions, you should experiment with some of the strategies indicated below.

It is necessary to notify how many seconds remain until the next event begins when transitions are taking too long. This will discourage students from walking around aimlessly. Tyler Hester, for example, takes out a stopwatch and challenges students to best the transition timings of other classes in their class (see a video example at the 35 minute mark). And here’s a little-known secret: slowly counting down from five in a booming voice never fails to expedite transitions in my experience.

When processes are not followed, the following can occur: One fifth-grade teacher had a difficult time lining up her children at the conclusion of the day. Her difficult class frequently descended into brawls, and the assistant principal scolded her for causing traffic delays by delaying the buses. Her idea was to place black dots on the floor three feet apart to allow students to stand on while they were packing their possessions, and to give them more time. Her kids’ dismissive demeanour changed after a few practise sessions, she discovered.

Teaching young pupils how to ninja walk might be beneficial throughout any change. A variety of other routines are as entertaining; for example, see Madeline Noonan’s fifth graders getting ready in “super scholar style” or using “word of the day” signals.

A number of studies have found that precorrectives, or reminders, can help to reduce misbehaviour during transitions. In the moments before a transition, ask a youngster to describe the right sequence of steps to take while, for example, entering the classroom after recess. Alternatively, students can participate in a game of “correct the instructor” by acting out examples and non-examples while students identify improper behaviours with a thumbs-down signal. Then look for someone who can describe or model the correct method for your benefit.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, another precorrective involves the child walking through the procedure while the teacher narrates: “Let’s keep an eye on Noel at the sink.” She starts by turning the handles a little. What exactly does she require next? Yes, soap is the answer! She only pumps once because she believes that is all she requires. With the bubbles gone, she is now ready to get her paper towel off the bathroom counter. What number of pulls does she require? Together, let us declare it loud and clear: “One and two will suffice.”

Finally, one excellent technique for reteaching transitions is to simply instruct the entire class to begin from the beginning. During the first two weeks of class, allow for extra time for do-overs and be patient with yourself. The Navy SEALs say, “Slow is smooth, smooth is swift.” And they’re right.

When students are unable or unwilling to give up what they are doing: Have you ever witnessed a boy scream in agony as sleep is called? He was most likely taken completely by surprise. When forced to quit participating in an activity that they are completely absorbed in, many students experience the same eruptive emotions as they do at home. Displaying a countdown timer, such as those found at E.ggtimer.com, Online-Stopwatch.com, or Timer-Tab.com, in conjunction with spoken time signals, however, might assist pupils in anticipating and preparing for a coming change.

When younger children become preoccupied, the following occurs: An article on transitions quotes a 2007 study by Sarah E. Mathews in which it was shown that “children were delighted to engage in several routines that were part of the music programme.” According to Mathews, singing the following song will assist kindergarteners in organising their work areas between activities: “A helper I shall be.” I’ll be there to assist you. / There is a lot of work to be done. There is a lot of work to be done. “I’ll be there to assist.” Alternatively, you may play this cleanup music.

Allowing students to take the lead during transitions: Transitions do not always require the participation of the entire class. Take a look at how Wendy Hopf’s sixth graders communicate with hand signals: Raising one finger signifies that assistance is needed, raising two fingers indicates that a restroom or water break is required, and raising three fingers indicates that a pencil needs to be sharpened. “It’s great,” adds Hopf, “because it gives me the opportunity to say no to something.”

Research reveals that successful transitions are brief, have distinct beginnings and finishes, and are free of ambiguity. Meeting those standards will allow you to get the most out of your study time. Make no mistake, though, that you may incorporate humour as well, as demonstrated by a North Carolina teacher who welcomes each student with a delightful individual handshake as they enter the classroom each morning, demonstrating that transitions happen with children rather than to them.