Transitions

School staff experience their most difficult time with student behavior during transitions. As students change from one activity to another, return from recess or a special event, or move from one part of the room to another, successful teachers report the necessity of using a number of strategies. Consider the following.

1. As you announce an upcoming transition, remind students of the kind of behavior you're looking for. Restate your expectation of moving quietly and slowly without bumping, shoving, or touching others with hands or feet.

2. Publicly compliment those groups of students complying with your transition expectations. Say such things as, "I like the way John, Sue and Paul are moving quietly to their seats. Some of you, I see, are already sitting ready to begin. OK, now I see more of you are ready to go to work."

3. As students reenter the classroom, have the next activity waiting for them. Put a message on the overhead projector about how to get ready for the next lesson, or have an assignment or the seatwork for a lesson already distributed on their desk.

4. After all students have reentered the room, give a signal that you are ready to begin. Say, "Let's get started," or "We have much work to do," or "The sooner we can begin, the sooner we can finish," or turn off the lights, count backwards from 5 or ring a small bell. Then look at the clock, set a timer or raise fingers on your hand with the prearranged understanding that lost minutes of instruction will be made up by the whole class (or a few individuals) before leaving for recess or lunch.

5. If you have trouble getting students to settle down, remind them of the consequences of their choices. Print the word 'RECESS" on the chalkboard as a warning and remove one letter for each 5 seconds of lost instructional time, or tell students, "If you need to use my time now, I will need a bit more of your time at lunch or recess."

6. Keep students focused on the next activity. Intently whisper what comes next, making it sound too inviting to want to miss.

7. Avoid redirecting individuals, repeatedly reprimanding the class generally or pleading for student attention and compliance. If the transition time takes too long, sit down, take a deep breath and quietly go over the rules and consequences and then try the transition in the room again.

When you have different methods for making transitions smoothly, you minimize the chance that students will behave disruptively at these times. Try out some of the ideas listed above, and see which ones you feel most comfortable with. Remember, transition time need not be traumatic!

From The Discipline Checklist by Ken Kosier. Copyright 1998, the National Education Association.