I used to pride myself in how well my students transitioned from one activity to the next.  I could count them down from 5 and they would be ready for the next task.  In the last couple of years, however,  this has not be the case.  In fact, I was almost embarrassed at how transitions were taking longer than normal, were louder than normal and were just not effective.

Well, just like so much else in education, I have realized that you can’t expect the students to be the same over the years.  I must adapt  (within reason) to their needs.

So… now, instead of saying my directions and expecting students to follow them right away, I know I must follow these steps:

  1. Get everyone’s attention.  This can happen in any of the following ways:
    • Signal with a sound.  I use a singing bowl to get everyone’s attention. It is a method I introduced with special intent to my students and it is a sound they recognize and pay attention to.
    • For 19 years I never used, “Stop, Look and Listen.”  However, that has changed and sometimes it’s a necessity for my class. If I need to pause on each word, I will.  If it takes too long, that’s ok.  It is so important for students to know these 3 simple directions and follow them.  It is my hope that it will become automatic the more I do it.
    • Before a big transition, I often tell my kids to, “Meet me at the rug.”  Sometimes I have them sit on the floor and other times, when I want things to be more brief, I’ll call a “quick, stand-up meeting” where we gather together for instructions.  Once they are all gathered, quiet and listening, I’ll go to the next step.
  2. Take a breath.  This is an important piece of the process.  It really helps everyone.  Sometimes, all that’s needed is one breath and other times, a stretch or movement break is necessary.  This is also an opportunity to draw students’ attention to the soundtracking music I may be playing at that time.  Giving them that audible cue helps to ground them as they prepare for the next thing.
  3. Explain the directions and expectations.  Again, depending on the needs of the students and possibly the time of day, I’ll give all or parts of the directions.  It is, after all important for kids to learn how to listen to and follow directions.  So, oftentimes, I’ll give all the directions at once (what to put away, what to take out).  And yes, I will have to stop a handful of kids from starting before I finish, but that is just part of the learning process.
  4. Dismiss students to make the transition.  Usually, this doesn’t happen all at once.  Instead, I will dismiss kids one at a time or in groups, emphasizing the need to be ready before transitioning.

Reading the room is so very important.  There are days and times during the schedule that my class can handle a quick transition and other times, we need to rest for a moment on one of the steps before proceeding.

When I really take the time to follow these steps, the outcome is great!  I then have a class of calm and focused students who are ready to take on the next task.  And that’s a great thing!