Mastering Classroom Transition Techniques

By: Admin 28 March, 2017

How to switch between student activities smoothly and save time?

There are essentially three types of transitions:

  1. Entering class and taking a seat
  2. Switching from one academic activity to another
  3. Exiting a class

And just like any academic procedure, transitions are taught through explicit explanations, clear models, rehearsal, and review. Author Mike Linsin recommends standardizing the process with five steps that can be paraphrased this way:


  1. Secure students’ attention: “Focus on me, please.”

  2. Explain the procedure: “In a moment, return to your desks and take out your history textbooks.”

  3. Prepare kids for the signal to start: “When I say ‘smooth,’ you’ll quietly proceed.”

  4. Initiate the transition: “And... smooth.” Don’t say “go,” because that word cues students to race.

  5. Observe: Watch to make sure all students are complying.




When transitions take too long or students misbehave even after following the five step process, it is time to figure out what went wrong and rectify. Some problems and possible solutions are listed below:


  • When transitions take too long: To counter students dragging their feet, announce how many seconds are left before the next event begins. Also, slowly counting down from five in a booming voice never fails to accelerate transitions.


  • When procedures aren’t followed: A number of studies show that reminders called pre-correctives reduce misbehavior during transitions.

  • Right before a transition, ask a child to describe the proper steps for the work. Example: When kids have to pack their bags and get in line for the bus, they often misbehave and take a lot of time. The teacher can ask a student to narrate the process and do it as an example to lead the others.

  • An effective strategy for reteaching transitions is simply to direct the entire class to start over. Budget extra time for do-overs during the first two weeks of class and be patient. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”


  • When students don’t want to quit what they’re doing: In the classroom, many kids start crying when asked to stop doing an activity that absorbs them. Display a countdown timer, combined with verbal time signals—helps students anticipate and prepare for an approaching transition.




  • When younger children get distracted: Younger kids often get distracted while doing a task. Studies have found that children get excited to engage in routines that are part of music. Sing a poem or a song like, “A helper I will be. A helper I will be. There’s work to do. There’s work to do. A helper I will be.” This will get kids back to work.


  • Letting students take charge of transitions: Elder kids can be taught hand signals for different requests. For example; raising one finger requests help, raising two fingers asks for a bathroom or water break, and raising three fingers indicates that a pencil needs sharpening. The teacher can say yes or no just with a head nod without the class getting disrupted.

Research suggests that successful transitions are quick and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting those requirements will maximize learning 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.

This article has been taken from Edutopia Website. Click here to know more .