Leave the Chaos Behind with Transitions - History Gal

Leave the Chaos Behind with Transitions

by History Gal

As a teacher, I take a lot of things into consideration when I plan out my lessons. I make sure the activity aligns to standards and will be engaging. I plan out the prep for the lesson and I have a back-up plan if the lesson is finished quicker than I anticipated or if it flops. But, for years, I left out an important piece of my daily lessons. It's something that signals a smoothly running classroom (and something administrators always look for it when they do their observations) and I didn't give it a single thought. What was it? Transitions - how to go from one activity to another without encountering all-out chaos in the classroom. 

My awareness of transitions occurred when I first volunteered in my son's kindergarten class. I was blown away. His kindergarten teacher had 5 year old kids moving from one activity to another without chaos or confusion. It was completely seamless. In a single day, the kindergartners made dozens of transitions quicker than my high school students ever did. 

How did she do this? She did it with purposefully planned transitions. And, it made me start thinking about transitions in my classes and how I could make them better.

Here are 5 ideas for your classroom that will help make better transitions.

Be ready and prepared: 
We want our students to be able to easily transition from one activity to another, but what about us? We also need to transition easily if we want success. We must have the necessary materials and tools ready and close by prior to the start of the next activity. If we are unprepared, that slows up starting the next lesson and will aid in the confusion of our students. Nobody needs more confusion!

In the beginning of the year, you give your classroom rules. How do your students learn to obey the rules? You reinforce over and over again until it becomes a routine. It's the same thing with activity transitions. Remind your students how you want them to transition and practice until it becomes a routine they are familiar with. This also should include anything that should be done at the end of every activity like throwing away garbage, putting all pencils back, and turning in all assignments. 

Use Music Signals: 
A good indicator to signal the completion of one activity and the start the next one is music. Use any music you want and play it from your computer or an iPad or iPod. It's even fun to use a stuffed animal that plays music when a button is pushed. Students will hear the musical cue and know that it's time to clean up and move to the next activity.

Use an Online Timer:
Have you ever lost track of time while in the middle of an activity? A timer does wonders! I like using online timers that can be displayed on a whiteboard/projection screen. A timer countdown how many minutes are left until the end of the activity and eliminates the “ran out of time” problem. They also help the students stay on schedule since they can see how much time they have left to work. One website you want to try is timer.onlineclock.net. This site lets you choose counting down time, choose a background image, and gives you different options for alert noises when the time is done.
Use a Code Word:
Do you have students that jump right into an activity before you've had a chance to finish giving the directions? Having a “code word of the day” helps immensely! Students cannot start the next activity until they hear the code word. Code words can be fun and totally random like an animal, a food, or a sport. Or, the code word could also be academic related, such as a vocabulary word from that activity.

These are just a few different methods that could be used in your classroom to help make activity transitions more successful and less stressful!

What methods do you use in your classrooms?

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