As educators, we plan how we will teach a lesson; we plan how to determine if a child understands the concept; we even plan the materials we will use. We always seem to be planning, yet we often neglect to plan for something that occurs numerous times throughout the day which can have a tremendous impact on the flow of the classroom- transitions. Think about the first time you drove somewhere new. Presumably you did not just get in the car, begin driving, and hope for the best. Instead you thought about it beforehand. Maybe you wrote down the directions or put the address into your car’s GPS. The same holds true with transitions. Most successful transitions need to be planned prior to the activity.
There are many tried and true methods for moving children from one activity to another, such as, having everyone wearing red get in line or having everyone whose name ends with the letter e come to the carpet. Not only does this method review basic skills that are being learned, but it also reduces the number of students moving at one time. Another version of this is to ask each child a question about a recent lesson. When the child provides an answer he/she moves to the next activity. (A bonus to this is if the child cannot provide a correct answer, then we know that we probably need to go back and review that lesson with the child.)
During the actual transition the class can sing songs or chants, do a fingerplay, or play word games. Children also enjoy “walking” like various animals. A child in the group chooses the animal and the others move like the chosen animal. (Limitations on sound level, types of animals, etc. are essential if this transition activity is to be successful.)
When the class must wait for a period of time, such as in the cafeteria line, before entering the gymnasium, or waiting for the restroom, games such as Simon Says, I Spy, or Follow the Leader can be very effective in providing a controlled yet enjoyable way to pass the time.
There are a few related things to consider. First, review your class schedule to see if some of the current transitions can actually be eliminated. There may be times when official, full-class transitions are not necessary. Also, providing children with both a verbal and visual “advance notice” that an activity is coming to an end can assist with a smoother transition. Finally, it is quite possible that there will be a child who needs individual assistance during these periods. Thought should be given to which strategies will be needed to help this child.
If we are as intentional with our transitions as we are with our academic lessons, these times can be both productive and enjoyable parts of the day.