When I ask training participants to detail their typical classroom routine, most teachers have a list of 15+ transitions before lunch. In fact, many teachers realize that their schedule includes about 10 transitions every two hours. Multiply that by the 8-10 hours that many children spend in our care and whoa.
That’s A LOT of time spent in transitions… which can often mean A LOT of time spent waiting.
Most adults struggle with waiting — just thinking about the long lines at the DMV or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room makes me twitch! — so why do we expect children to wait patiently and compliantly, every single day?
The bad news? Transitions can be troubling — noisy, hectic, and a breeding ground for challenging behaviors.
The good news? With purposeful planning, teachers can reduce wait times and transform transitions into engaging learning opportunities.
3 Strategies for Smoother Transitions:
- Be consistent. Establish a habit of consistently using a transition warning AND a transition signal (in addition to a verbal direction).
- A transition warning (such as “5 more minutes” with a visual countdown) lets children know that an activity will end soon.
- A transition signal accompanies a verbal direction and may be auditory (ringing a bell, singing a song), visual (turning off lights), or gestural (pointing to a picture on a posted schedule).
- Be proactive. Eliminate “sit and wait” portions of the day — have lunch ready before calling children to the table, have centers already set up for when you return from the gym/outdoors, and consider all “line times” as opportunities to sing and move!
- Be generous with positive attention. Know who needs extra attention & give it freely. Engage children as helpers, recognize their efforts, and provide lots of pre-correction/opportunities to practice expected behaviors (for example, explain and practice “walking feet” before someone starts running in the hallway).
Want to learn more?
- Check out this list of 10 Simple Strategies that teachers can use to reflect/self-check their classroom routines and expectations.
- Watch this quick video (4 minutes) for an overview of why transitions matter and how teachers can make them smoother.