How To Get Your Students To Quietly Transition

How do you get your students attention so they can line up and then stay quiet while they’re in line?
This month on my mail ring I’ve heard all sorts of complaints about students transitioning, particularly their behavior or lack of it, in the hallway. They seem to be lost in the Twilight Zone doing everything from pushing and shoving to talking non-stop!  What’s a teacher to do?  Here are some possible super-duper-shutter-uppers for those days when you’re ready, as one teacher put it, to “rip-your- hair-out!”

transitioning children, tips for transitioning kids, transition songsSetting the stage is crucial:

  • When you want to get your students’ attention to transition you must already have done a few things.
  • I explain the rules for transitions and we have practiced them from day one. My students know what is expected of them.
  • I have a designated signal to gently warn them 5 minutes before a transition, that their current activity will be ending soon.  I ring a lovely sounding chime.  If a bell being rung for Pavlov’s dogs successfully worked for him, I figured a chime would work for me, and it does.
  • Then, 5 minutes later, a timer rings signaling that activity is done. Children know that they are to clean up and that they will be transitioning to another activity. They also know that they have 5 minutes to do so. A second timer rings to let them know that their 5 minutes of clean up time is over. If things weren’t cleaned up, they have a consequence. i.e., toys not put away they don’t get to play with.  This teaches them responsibility. I use encouraging words as they clean up. “I like how Kelli is helping.” “Two minutes to go. Good job.”
  • The activity that they are in is posted as an icon on the board. That icon is then taken down and put in a basket. Visually seeing this lets children know what they were doing and that it is now over.
  • I also have a play clock on the board that I can move the hands to the time this activity will be over.   I announce to the children that this activity will be over when our real clock looks like our play clock.  It gets them used to telling time, and associating their activities to a time frame.
  • I play up-beat music while they are cleaning. It gets them going. We also sing a clean up song before I put the music on. I challenge them to finish cleaning up before the music stops, which is before the timer rings.
  • I make it a competition, and post their previous clean up time, challenging them to beat it.  They are very competitive and desire to beat their last time.
  • Make clean up a game. Children can become vacuum cleaners or scrap monsters. See who can pick up the most toys, garbage whatever, and then get to wear the king and queen clean up crowns for that hour.
  • For variety, on some days make their movement part of the fun.  Fly like a bird to put away toys, walk like an elephant to put away supplies, buzz like a bee to throw away garbage.
  • When time is getting close, to speed things up I might say: "I'm closing my eyes! Let me know when I can peek." "Can I peek yet? Are you all cleaned up? " "Hurry! I need to peek. I can't wait any longer."
  • Many of us now have 20+ children in the class. One line is no longer feasible. So I suggest dividing your class into two groups and having two lines. Put those two lines on two different sides of the hallway so that they are on separate walls. Things will be quieter. You may also want to rethink bathroom time and not send children all at once. It is still a good idea to have an adult monitoring the hallway. I never leave a group of children unsupervised.
  • Make sure you are giving clear, concise, and do-able directions.  Instead of telling children to “line-up”, “clean-up,” or “get ready for gym class,”  say exactly what you want them to do, i.e.,,  “put your papers in your locker,” “put the puzzles away.”
  • Be sure you pay attention to your vocabulary as you tell students where to go and what to do.  Do they know what the “reading center” is, or what “make a circle” means?  Using appropriate vocabulary that your students understand will help reduce confusion during transition time.
  • Give your students behavioral expectations. “We are going to go to computers. We’ll need to walk quietly in the hallway, so let me know with a thumbs up or high five that you are ready to go.”
  • Use lining up as an opportunity to practice listening skills and basic report card standards. Be creative; think of new ways to line your students up so things don’t get boring and you have a variety that keeps their attention. i.e., Line up if your name begins with K, if you’re wearing purple, if you’re birthday is this month.   Children are listening, concepts are reinforced, and not everyone is rushing to the door.  You can vary this by putting various themed-concepts in a basket.  Pass the basket around and have each child choose a card or piece. Then say: “All the number 1’s line up (numbers) or all the triangles line up (shapes) or all the red balls line up (colors) or all the vowels line up.” etc.transitions for children, tips for transitions, transition songs
  • Don’t let a few spoil it for the rest of the group. Pull those students out that are being obnoxious and make them practice lining up and staying quiet while you send the rest on to special, lunch, recess etc. If you’re not lucky enough to have a room helper that day, snag an adult in the hallway or haul everyone back to the room and call the special teacher and see if they can come get your class, or grab an older student loitering in the hallway, or call the office for an aid etc. I find that the unruly munchkins settle right down when they’re singled out and are missing lunch/recess etc. It’s also easier working with a smaller group.
  • Don’t give in or lower your expectations. If you expect absolute quiet you WILL get it. Be consistent and follow through.
  • Don’t go faster than your students can keep up either.  I notice that some teachers have noisy lines because they are walking at such a fast pace their little ones can’t keep up without running. This causes lots of commotion.
  • Daily routines and transitions are an important part of classrooms and your sanity.  By implementing songs, chants, routines and transitions, you are providing students with constant reminders of your behavior expectations in a fun way!  We all need a bottomless bag of tricks to add to our classroom management repertoires, so here’s a list of some tried and true methods to help you sing, cheer, chant and tip toe your way to a happier and better run classroom and line in the hallway!  Click on the link to view/print this helpful list of ideas.  Transition Tips
  • I've also made up a transitions in the Classroom Checklist. How are you doing? Click on the link to view/print a copy of that. It might help you fine-tune those center chaotic moments.
  • Click on this link to view/print the Entire Article with Transition Tips and Classroom Checklist

The Tip List has 74 tips. I'd love to make it all the way to 100 giving teachers more fuel to put out those "rip-your-hair-out" fires! So take a moment and send me what works for you! Thanks in advance and have a great day getting the ants out of your students' pants!


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