Effective Transitions, Classroom Management

( words) minutes to read 

Effective transitions are critical for effective classroom management, successful learners, and happy teachers. Time loss, and attention loss, during transitions can be a major factors in student learning. It can be a major hurdle that separates high-growth classes from low-growth classes. Here are a few tips to give your students a sense of urgency and mental focus during transitions.

In this post, you will find:

  • Why effective transitions are important for classroom management and instructional effectiveness.
  • A Simple Transition Tip
  • Video on “Tight Transitions”
  • Ideas to Master Effective Transitions

Let’s start with why effective transitions are so important.

Why Are Transitions Important?

These are times when noise levels increase, academic engagement is absent, and movement is present. It’s the perfect recipe for disasters or regaining mental focus. It all depends on your use of routine and effective transitions.

  • Transition Time = No Learning, which is good for the brain.
  • Smooth transitions = Increased learning time.
  • Time = A teacher’s most valuable resource.
  • Bad Transitions = Unfocused learners, loss of time.
  • Chaotic Transitions = Unhealthy class climate.

There’s a lot at stake here. So let’s look at the simplest tip that I can give you. It also has a huge impact on classroom management!

How to do Effective Transitions in Classrooms?

Transition Tip: Time Limits & Countdowns

Botched transitions are not only embarrassing, they’re lost time. If you save 15 minutes a day through more efficient transitions, that will result in 45 extra hours of instructional time per year. Therefore, shifting students from one task to the next is worth getting right.

-Todd Finley

Save time during transitions by using time limits and countdowns.

During any transition, give time limits. 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 60 seconds…whatever you think is appropriate for an effective transition, and then make it a bit shorter. The students will move much faster with a little time pressure.

Be sure to remind students of the intervals as they pass. It looks this:

  • “Okay students, clear off your desks and take out your writing notebooks. You have 30 seconds.”
  • Students start the transition.
  • The teacher gives the interval, “20 seconds left.”
  • Students hurry up and then, “10 seconds left.”
  • In the final stretch, use a countdown, “5, 4, 3…”

It really is as simple as that! If you want to boost the effectiveness of this transition tip, try a few classroom management ninja techniques.

  • Add music. Experiment with calm, energetic, instrumental, and other types to see which is best for your class climate.
  • Add choral response. When giving directions, use a routine choral response such as:
    • Teacher: Hey, hey, young scholars!
    • Class: Hey, hey, cool teacher!
    • Then give the directions.
  • Add team points. Motivate teams by giving group points to the quickest and quietest groups.

Tight Transitions

This is a strategy in the Teach Like A Champion book (Amazon link).

To do this, teachers must break down procedures and map out the one right way to do them. One effective way to do this is to scaffold the transitions, and teaching procedures step-by-step. It may seem like a waste of time or something for their homeroom teachers to do, but it is an investment and one that can pay off for months or years to come, depending on how long you teach.

Mastering Classroom Transitions

Let’s wrap up with a few ideas and tips from Todd Finley. You can read more in the full article at Edutopia.

He offers an interesting fact about the loss of time during transitions:

And here are a few tips for transitions:

  • Secure students’ attention.
  • Explain the procedure.
  • Prepare kids for the signal to start.
  • Initiate the transition.
  • Observe.

Sometimes transitions are just plain difficult. Here are a few questions that can help with reflection:

  1. Were my directions vague?
  2. Did I have too many steps in the directions?
  3. Was it a routine transition, or was it new?
  4. How can I make this transition a habit, a routine?
  5. Did I use a signal? The same signal as always?
  6. Did I have their attention when we started the transition?
  7. When did the transition get off track? Who caused it? What caused it?

Effective Classroom Structures with Transitions

I hope this quick read helps with building effective transitions into your class structure. Also, you can use the timers and tools to help with effective transitions: Class Dojo (for points, music, and timers), Online Stopwatch (fun timers for projection), Egg Timer (a simple timer for transitions).

If you enjoyed these effective transition tips, please consider sharing this article with a friend or colleague using the share buttons. And now, it’s your turn. What tips do you have for transitions and classroom management? What questions do you have? Leave a comment below the related articles or Tweet Matt here.

About the Author

Matt is a learner, creator, and educator with k-12 teaching, administrative, and research experience. He tracks trends in education, travels the oceans, and fails at fishing.

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