How long does it take to settle your class down and focus when coming in at the beginning of the day, after recess or lunch, or between rotary periods? How about when switching from one lesson to another? When these transitions happen, we as educators lose very essential on task time and gain off task behaviours. Obviously, we all know that these disruptions are normal up to a certain point and we cannot expect not to have some time lost. But how much time is too much? That answer is based on what you find acceptable in your own classroom.
Nevertheless, there are many strategies available to help us diminish the lost time and create effective classrooms. Organization and routine are essential keys. This means that we as teachers must know what we expect, where we want to go with our lessons, and how to communicate that information to our students. For effective classrooms we need to consider all essential times to establish routines with our students. As always nothing is set in stone. We should be able to reflect and adapt. When things don’t work revisit these points to help you through the process.
~ Clearly outline your expectations from students at the beginning of the year. Working on them collaboratively ensures ownership of actions.
~ As a class, at the beginning of the year, develop activities/signals to indicate transition times. This can be accomplished by playing a specific piece of music (at your accepted length of time), calling out their names one by one, counting to a specific number, ringing a bell, creating an incentive for the class to reward the quickest time. This is should be alternated to address all the different learning styles of your classroom.
~ Practice transitions through modeling and repetition. Show the students desired and undesired behaviors.
~ When students are successful, utilize appropriate teacher language to hi light your recognition of the desired behaviour.
~ Have a daily outline of your schedule for students to visualize what is coming and at what time.
~ If possible, plan for longer periods of non transition. This usually can be done by preparing cross curricular lessons; therefore students do not need to “switch gears” but definitely prepare shorter tasks to keep students interested
~ When you need to have an in class transition give students a “heads-up” before it is going to occur. This can be accomplished by a visual timer on a Smart Board, or by writing how many minutes left on the blackboard.
~ Quick transitions could be also done by asking students to repeat instructions back to you.
~ Set up quick tasks to get students to settle down as soon as they come in. Have sheets set up in trays & students can easily pick them up. These can be quick math skills practice, journaling, and multiple choice questions. These can be review or pre cursors to past or upcoming lessons.
~ Have music playing when entering into the classroom to help settle students and to indicate they should be prepared.
~ Organize a system to collect and distribute classroom assignments and homework (classroom helpers, drop box, mailbox for each student, in box, out box).