4 Easy Ways to Improve Classroom Transitions

Try these tips for a smooth day

It's another day in the classroom and everything is going smoothly. But at some point as you begin a transition to the next subject, maybe moving from Read Aloud to Math, it seems to fall apart.

One student might start running around the room, or using a voice much too loud for the space, distracting peers with his latest jokes, or darting off to a favorite activity. Sometimes even just one student can disrupt the trajectory of the whole class-and your carefully crafted plan falls by the wayside.

What happened here? Someone wasn't prepared to transition.

Of course, you had prepared them! You had told everyone that's what was coming next. Or maybe it was written on a schedule on the board. Or maybe it's the routine every day and they know it by now.

But for some reason, it wasn't enough.

So how do we prevent this? Trying a multisensory approach can help diverse learners anticipate and remain calm through transitions. Presenting the information in visual, auditory, and tactile ways allows students who have different learning styles to keep up with what's happening, even if they miss it when you say it the first time.

4 Ways to fix Transition Stress

1. Use a Picture Schedule

Telling the class, and even writing it on the board may not be enough--especially for children with ADHD and others who struggle with retaining verbal information. A picture schedule helps kid who struggle with transitioning to anticipate and not be stressed when it happens.

A picture schedule posted on a board or wall where everyone can see is a great way for students to be able to reference the the plan throughout the day. Or individual schedules on their own workstations can be laminated and checked off throughout the day to help keep them individually on task.

2. Calm voice

Using the quiet, low, or same tone of voice that you were already using during the activity will help keep the chaos to a minimum. Raising your voice may alert children to increase their attention but also may rachet up stress for students that are oversensitive to auditory input.

3. Keep words to a minimum

What?! Isn't that how we communicate?? Yes-but less is more when it comes to words, particularly for children who may struggle to interpret them quickly while also feeling overwhelmed by all the other input they are processing during a transition. Just think about all the sensory input involved in a transition! They are seeing everyone standing up and moving toward desks, figuring out how to move their body around all the moving obstacles, trying to remember what you said they had just finished with and what's coming next and what they were supposed to get out of their desk after sitting down.

Make it easy for them. Keep directions Simple, Short, and Clear.

4. State the end goal

If you simply say, "Everyone get up and find your seat!" children that struggle with sequencing a task may flounder. They may get things out of order, or get to their desk but then become distracted, get up and get into other things.

Give them an endpoint they can stick to

After stating, "We're going back to our desks now", say, "I will know you are ready when ________" and such as, "I will know you're ready when you are seated with your hands in your lap."

Be specific about what you want to see. This gives children who struggle with transitions something concrete they can remember and stick to.

A multisensory approach will help not just the students who struggle, but will benefit everyone in the class to "hear" the informationin a variety of ways.

These are the keys that I've learned from watching experienced teachers and from working with groups of children-I hope they help you too!

Let me know your tips in the comments-and as always, reach out for a free teacher consultation if your classroom could benefit from support.

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