Teachable Transitions

Are your classroom transitions smooth or a train wreck? Even the best teachers can have difficulty during transitions.

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Within a day there are numerous transitions – arrival, cleanup, circle time, story time, snacks and lunch, nap or rest time, elective time, restroom break, table activity time, seatwork time, and departure. Older students have class changes and locker breaks.

Here are a few general reminders to help teachers execute smooth transitions in the classroom:

  • Remain calm and collected. If the teacher is anxious then the class will be as well. The teacher should always be calm, because he or she has taken time to think through the transition ahead of time. Watch body language and tone of voice. A teacher can sooth the students with words or send them into shock!
  • Make necessary preparations in advance. When planning for the day, make sure all the supplies, visuals, objects, etc. are out ahead of time. A teacher should never have to go find something; everything should be out ahead of time for the day. This helps transitions go smoother because the teacher can stay tuned in to the students during transitions and not their own personal needs.
  • Eliminate as many interruptions as possible. Think through the class transition ahead of time and ask yourself what could go wrong. Imagine the worst. Remove all obstacles and prepare for interruptions.
  • State the directions simply and positively. Start your statements with “You will…”. Never link more than three objectives at a time for a student to remember. Make sure all the students are looking at you while you are giving directions. Then give the command to “start”. Give the student a time frame for transition – 30 seconds, 1 minute, etc.
  • Give children warning of forthcoming shifts in activity. Help the students with transitions by telling how many minutes until a transition occurs. For example, if students are working on a project or taking a test, tell them when five minutes are left before transition. Again at one minute, remind them of the upcoming transition. These reminders help children that struggle with change.

There are numerous things to do during a transition that helps with smoothness as well. These vary due to age. Children like to talk during transitions, so they might as well sing, talk, or chant something that helps them. The following educational objectives may be completed while the students transition:

  • Sing a Bible song or fun song
  • Recite a poem or chant
  • Recite a memory passage
  • Read a story
  • Play a game

Remember… you want smooth transitions – not grinding gears. This next week, work hard to have every transition well oiled.

How do you transition in your classroom? 

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Dr. Cathy Dotson serves as the Elementary Principal of Wilmington Christian Academy in Wilmington, NC. Her 21 years in Christian education and expertise in early childhood and elementary learning ideally equip her to share with FOCUS readers.