How to Unlock Seamless Classroom Transitions

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Well, hey there, teacher bestie. I am extremely excited to share with you some of my seamless transitions secrets today so that you too can unlock seamless transitions in your classroom and stop wasting extra time that you could be spending on more meaningful activities that can totally be ruined by these messy, loud transitions.

If you are new, I’m so happy to have you here. I come here every week to coach you, to guide you in being a more joyful and impactful teacher. I’m also very blessed and happy to have the title of Joyful Teacher Private Coach. Yes, I coach teachers privately to help them find more joy, energy, and passion in their workplace so that they can sustain in the career that they love.

If that sounds like something you are interested in, I do have a few spots open, and you can email me at toni @ (just remove the spaces). And let me know you would like to try a free 30 minute session. I love talking to teachers, to help them, to uplift them, encourage them and help them find the solutions that work for them in their life. It’s a powerful thing, coaching is. I have my own personal coach named Janet. I talked about that HERE

What’s the big deal?

But back to today’s topic of transitions in the classroom. Moving from one place or activity to another and trying to keep our little people calm, quiet, and ready to learn is a big deal in your classroom management game. I love helping teachers with classroom management, because the solutions are often simple, but sometimes we don’t see the exact area of need.

So look at your classroom transitions when your students are moving from one activity to another and ask yourself, could this go smoother? How much time and energy is wasted there in your classroom? Is it often loud, unruly? Is it hard for your students to refocus on their next task? Do you feel like you’re just wasting a lot of instructional time, or a lot of your sanity, on getting them calmed back down? If you are friend, this episode is just what you need. So let’s get to it. 

Seamless Transitions are Empowering

I love to challenge myself to see just how effective I can make transitions. If you read this POST, you know that I totally take pride in this title of tiny human tamer. During transitions, I just think it’s really empowering to see my students go from one place, one activity, to another and lose zero energy trying to calm them down and to have them completely prepped and ready to follow instructions and to move on to the next thing. It’s amazing. And I’m constantly challenging myself to get even better at it.

So I’m not bragging, but one thing I hear all the time after being observed is, “You are great at transitions, you are wasting zero instructional time getting your kids to move from one thing to another.” So I thought well, how do I do that? And how can I transfer this skill to the friends that I love on the podcast and the blog.

So I have outlined exactly what I do, and I’m going to share it with you today. So make sure you take action and put some of these strategies into play, and always let me know how they work for you. I love hearing from you.

Seamless Transitions Strategy #1: Materials Prepped and Ready

I have five areas I want you to focus on if you want to unlock seamless transitions for yourself in the classroom. So strategy number one is to always be ahead of the game and preparing your materials. And I know this is sort of duh, Toni. But sometimes we forget how much us being prepared with the materials affects our students’ behavior in those transitions. What I like to do is to give my students a brain break after completing one activity. And I use that time that they’re dancing and wiggling and laughing to get other things passed out and ready for them. Of course, I like to dance with them too. But mostly, I utilize that time to get my materials ready so that this transition into the next thing goes very, very smoothly. 

Seamless Transitions Strategy #2: Define Expectations Every. Single. Time.

Number two is to define your expectations every single time. We have this horrible habit of assuming our students know what to do all the time. But their little brains forget, they get excited, they’re thinking about something else. And they forget a step in the transition that we’ve done with them a million times, whether that is they lose focus and begin talking to a partner, or they forget to get something out, we can bypass all of that trouble by every single time defining our expectations. 

What that looks like for me is short finger directions. So we use our fingers. I may say, “Boys and girls, we’re going to go back to our seats now. And we’re going to do our spelling. First, go quietly, get out your pencil and your spelling paper.” So those are three fingers that we’re going to raise as we repeat. “So repeat after me boys and girls. Go quietly, pencil, paper.”

After they repeat it and I’m sure everyone has understood it, the expectation is there. They are less likely to forget those expectations on their way to actually putting them into play. So always define your expectations.

Seamless Transitions Strategy #3: Cue the Transition

On to strategy number three, to always cue the transition. So after we do our finger lifts, and we repeat our expectations, they don’t just get up and wander off. I cue a transition so that all students can get up and move at the same time. This does lots of things on the management side. It makes them move quickly. It gives them a purpose.

And I’m a big believer in audio visual cues to help our students to know what to do and when. I always cue our transitions with a sound like a bell, or my favorite is the transition break. This video shows three top secret classroom management tricks, and you can see exactly what a transition break looks like. So you need a cue that lets your students know this is the exact moment they should get up. It makes things seamless and quick. 

Seamless Transitions Strategy #4: Make it a Competition

Strategy and number four is to make it a competition. Our little learners are so competitive, they love to win. They love being recognized. So why don’t we make our transitions a competition too? Transitioning is a competition, we can do that with a game. One classroom management trick that I like to use is called character points. Basically, I assign each table a little character, just a little picture that’s taped on my whiteboard. We always want to get character points and see which character is the best. More traditionally, this is just called table points.

It’s so easy, and you focus on positive behaviors. “So I am going to give a character point or table point to the sneakiest group of kids who can get back to their table and get started the quickest and most quietly. I’m going to give that character two points today. Let’s see who’s going to get those two points. 1, 2, 3, break, let’s go.” Suddenly, our transition went from, oh, I gotta go to the next thing and get to work again, to oh, my goodness, this is a competition, I’m going to do my best at it. 

I also love to play the freeze game. “Boys and girls, we’re going to sneak back to our seat. And when you get there, I want you to freeze.” Kids love the freeze thing. It’s so cool that just by saying that we’re playing the freeze game, you can get them to stay completely still without a voice. 

Seamless Transitions Strategy #5: Recognize the Winners

Finally, the fifth strategy. Of course, if we have a competition, we need to recognize the winners. We need to recognize the kids that were doing an excellent job. This is just positive reinforcement, which is so, so powerful. I recognize my students by giving them the character points, but I also use other little strategies that give kids the personal reward of being recognized. 

So one thing I like to do is use ninja names. “Boys and girls, I’m going to call out the names of the kids who are the sneakiest in our transition today. I see Brandi being so sneaky, being so careful not to make a peep, and to get everything started.” I’ll say, “Let me call out ninja names. Okay, Ninja Brandi, Ninja Cane, Ninja Jackson,” and their little faces just light up with pride, because every kid wants to be a ninja. Trust me. I love using the ninja analogy in the classroom because of course we want our students to be ninjas. They’re quick, they’re quiet. They’re speedy, and they’re just awesome, right? 

Or you can use a classroom cheer. “Boys and girls. Paisley was so, so sneaky. Let’s give her a big loud yee haw.” I have a complete set of free cheer cards created with the cheers by Dr. Jean. You can go HERE and get those absolutely free. Dr. Jean is so creative, and I did the digital side of that, creating the cards for you to print out and to use in your classroom. 

More Time, More Sanity

You can try one of these things, you can try all of them. But I promise you more seamless, smooth transitions will bring you more joy. I hope this information is powerful for you and that it brings you more sanity during those transitions. And one last thing I want to say is I would love to speak with you one on one, to coach you, to get to know you and your needs, your circumstances, your aspirations and goals in the classroom, and to be your teacher coach. I love coaching teachers, it’s so powerful. It’s also rewarding when teachers make those breakthroughs that make the biggest impact on their career. So if you are looking for new joy, new support, I’d love to offer you a free 30 minute coaching session to see if it’s a right fit for you. 

I just want to help teachers become more joyful so that they can sustain in the career that I believe so much in. You are important. Never, ever, ever forget it. Have a blessed holiday season, and I will be back next week with more information, knowledge, and strategies to share. Until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.



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