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Transitions

Behaviour Management

Transitions

a guide for classroom teachers and teacher aides

Teacher walking with school students outside the classroom.

When teachers speak of ‘transitions’, they are referring to the critical period between activities when students are moving from one activity to another. Transitions can also refer to the period before class such as when lining up outside. This small window of time is an opportunity that some students exploit for their own ends. Some transitions are easy to manage (e.g. students put away a maths book and get out their science book). Others are more challenging such as moving from an art project that requires clean-up to a silent task such as reading.

The easiest way to manage transitions is with a highly controlled and structured start and end (beginning and ending with ‘all eyes on me’).

Transitions give students the freedom to move around the room, to interact and ‘bump’ into each other, to release some energy, to unwind, to chat with a friend and so forth. They are happy to have finished the previous task and rationalise that a quick chat with a friend is a just reward for their previous efforts. Transitions can be difficult to police due to the whirlwind of movement and the fact that the teacher’s focus is on preparing the next activity and hurrying up slow-coaches still working on the previous task.

Defining a transition is not the issue – managing it is. There are 3 simple steps to managing a transition.

  • Pre-transition: get everyone’s attention, provide clear instructions and precorrections, set a time limit (e.g. 3 minutes) and give brief requests/reminders to individuals as needed. Release all students in one go (‘Wait for it – GO’ technique).
  • In-transit: circulate, provide reminders, suggestions, positive responses, use peer prompting, don’t be afraid to micromanage, use countdowns.
  • Post-transition: have all students sit quietly and still at their desks, provide brief and positive feedback, do not begin instructions until all students are settled and ready (other than the odd ‘straggler’ – there is always 1 or 2). If students start the next activity at staggered times, provide brief instructions to individuals and groups while circulating and consider writing your instructions on the board.

As you can see from the above 3-step process, the easiest way to manage transitions is with a highly controlled and structured start and end (beginning and ending with ‘all eyes on me’). This ensures students remain settled before, during and after the transition and that it isn’t a catalyst for more concerning issues. The 3-step process is a guide only and may not be necessary once the class is versed in transitioning.

Hint: Explicitly teach rules, expectations and processes; experiment with transition-timing games which have been shown to be effective (Barbetta, et al., 2005).

References:

Barbetta, P. M., Norona, K. L., & Bicard, D. F. (2005). Classroom behavior management: A dozen common mistakes and what to do instead. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 49(3), 11-19. https://doi:10.3200/PSFL.49.3.11-19

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.

ADAM GREEN

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

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