In our previous post, we discussed the need for smooth and efficient classroom transitions. Now, we move on to how you can build smooth transitions into your classroom, hence promoting a successful shift in learning and students’ attention between lessons.
“Transitions may seem at first to be minor concerns, but Jacob Kounin concluded from his investigations that a teachers’ ability to manage smooth transitions and maintain momentum was more important to work involvement and classroom control than any other behaviour-management technique.”~ C. M. Charles
Transition Techniques Are Teachable As Classroom Skills
Similar to life’s other lessons, transition techniques can be taught to your students. However, as most children come to school without the basic skills or knowledge needed to perform efficient transitions, you will need to play your part in teaching them these essential classroom skills.
Teaching transition skills and techniques is similar to teaching any other skill or activity. All that is needed is a keen sense of observation, which will inform you of the skills that your students lack. Once these skills are identified, you can analyse and determine what you expect from your students and what the proper behaviours are for a transition. Your students can then be led towards the right path by practising those specified behaviours.
Meanwhile, it is important that you continuously support and encourage your students, so that they will be able to perform to the best of their ability and benefit the learning process with smoother and time saving transitions in the classroom.
A Teacher’s Role in Teaching Transitions
Teachers play a key role in the development and teaching of behaviours that lead to smooth transitions and it is essential to prepare your students for the upcoming classroom transitions before they occur.
Explain a particular transition technique to the students with a rationale, and then model it yourself. Once they have seen it, ask them to practice it and incorporate it into your everyday classroom routine. As soon as the students are able to perform it on their own, you can simply monitor the class and provide feedback as needed.
As shown in the diagram above, teachers need to develop prerequisite skills, which will eventually lead your students to independence.
Your main responsibilities are:
Prepare Your Students
One of the best ways to keep your students aware of upcoming transitions is to assign time limits to certain tasks. Let them know how much time they have for the work at hand and what you will be doing after the current activity is completed. Transitions progress more smoothly when students can anticipate the upcoming change to routine.
Set Up a Uniform Class Structure
Predictability helps in maintaining the calm and orderly environment of a classroom. Set up a fixed routine and structure within your class that the students can easily follow. For instance, you may begin by discussing the homework given to the students, before moving on to the day’s lessons; and you may end the class by giving homework for the next day.
You can’t teach all of the routines in the first day or even the first week! Decide which will be the most important to you and order them from there. It will be helpful to figure out which of the procedures and routines are most needed in order for your class to run effectively. If you can establish expectations for listening and creating order then the other items will be easier to teach.
Prepare Materials to Teach Each Procedure/Routine
Teaching routines and procedures is as important, if not more important, than any other lesson you’ll teach during the school year. Therefore, it is crucial that you plan for how you will present the details to the students. You may want to consider gathering props (i.e. paper towels and soap for modelling hand washing, a pencil and hand held sharpener for pencil routines, etc). You’ll also need to prepare visual cues like charts or procedure books. If you teach a primary grade, it would be best to use photos or clipart. Secondary grade students respond well to subtle hand gestures or “one word” cues (i.e. “connect”, “attitude check”).
Convey Classroom Procedures Clearly
Rather than waiting for your students to ask questions, provide them with the answers beforehand, allowing them to familiarise themselves with your set code of conduct that will lead to a smooth progression of the learning process. A helpful way to answer questions upfront is by drafting a written document that states the procedures and actions that are to be performed within the class. All students will benefit from visual cues, but it is imperative that they are included for younger learners who have not yet learned to read.
Build Boundaries between Activities
Take each activity separately and announce the termination of one task before initiating the next one. During transitions, monitor your class and make sure that they are able to differentiate between each task and find closure to each activity. Build task boundaries, clearly specifying that the students are now supposed to begin a new task.
Practice The Routines
After explaining and modelling the routine, you’ll need to allow time for the students to practice. Begin by referencing the chart (or visuals) again and reading through each step. Next, walk the class through the routine by narrating their actions and providing positive feedback as it applies. Upon completion either state what was done correctly or else explain how they could improve.
Model the procedure yourself. Talk through your actions so they can see what you want them to do, where you want them to do it and how you want them to do it.
Explain the reason for the routine and the expectations that you have for it. Keep the directions simple and concrete, while detailing exactly what is expected of them.
Review and Provide Feedback on an Ongoing Basis
Within a few weeks, the students’ actions will become automatic. In the meantime, it’s important to continue to review and practice the routines as they occur.
Organize Your Classroom
From the seating arrangement, to the arrangement of the stationary supplies, make sure that you can easily communicate with your students, reach for your supplies as needed, and move through the room with ease without disrupting your students and their work. A teacher that is not well organized and confident can easily lose the attention of the students, causing a commotion in the classroom.
Overall, teaching transitions is about making habits and practicing routines, which make them effective.
Remember: Transition represents one of the most important techniques in maintaining student involvement and class control throughout the changes in activities in the school day. Once your students are aware of the patterns within the classroom, you can gradually help them long, until eventually they are able to follow the right transitions processes on their own.