Transitions: Classroom Routines That Respect Instructional Time

I have pretty high expectations for student organization and transitions between activities. I don't want student to lose precious learning time. That said, I don't want students to be robots.

How do I show students I care about them, honor individual quirks, and still clarify my expectations for our learning time?

Clear instructions are written on the board as students arrive - and for each transition. In the past, I wrote steps for students on the board. I now have Smart Board templates. (No, the students listed are not in trouble :)).

Every lesson plan should consider placement and movement of materials. Our personal organization systems set students up for success or failure. Students who wait for papers, scissors, and other materials have nothing to do but talk.

When students wait for other students to find materials, they get caught in "dead time" and are again tempted to start side conversations. Worse, the disorganized students "stick out." They may feel embarrassed, which makes them feel emotionally unsafe.

It is helpful to have colors and numbers on student desks. Then, a teacher can say, "'A's, please get the scissors, Bs should get paper, Cs help make sure desk and floor areas are cleared and ready for the next activity..." One student in the group is often assigned as "mentor", helping those in their groups who are running a bit behind or who are having problems finding the materials they need. If every child is working, it is less likely students will be negatively labeled by peers.

Also, it is helpful to have students give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to the question, "Will x-minutes be enough time to accomplish these expectations?"

Solicit student opinions. The first couple of days, I have multiple "check-ins" with students. I want to know if the expectations are reasonable. If not, what can we do so that both their needs and my needs are met?

For example, we have a discussion about library time. I want students to be able to go to the library whenever they finish a book. I need to be able to conference with students during reading time - so students can't ask for permission. Also, I worry that some student might take advantage of the library option - spending more time looking for books (or socializing in the library) than reading.

Students and I worked together to establish the following guidelines:

  1. Library cards will be displayed by the door. If four library cards are gone, students waiting can choose a book from the classroom library until other students come back.
  2. Students believe they can be responsible with library time - using the library to check out books, then return to the classroom.
  3. We will re-evaluate these procedures on an as-needed basis.

Procedures slightly vary each year, reflecting the needs, preferences, and personalities of students in a particular class. Students tend to hold one another accountable for procedures they help create.


What procedural decisions are your students allowed to help create? What might you be willing to try?

Views: 431

Tags: classroom, efficiency, management, organization

Comment by Dave Craig on September 5, 2011 at 5:41am                                                                                                                              I am thinking of trying this free web based resource to keep track of positive and negative behaviors in the classroom. My thinking is it is way too much work for me as teh educator to track 28 kids behaviors but what I can do is keep track on paper and then have a student key in the results each day. Pondering my strategy but the software itself looks neat.
Comment by Janet Abercrombie on September 6, 2011 at 3:23am

That looks really interesting, Dave. It looks like you would leave the site open all day and mark things as you see them. I might try it with a student or two. What I like most is the ability to email parents right away.


I'm wondering if multiple teachers can login to access the same student. If you use it, let me know how it works!


To quickly track student behavior, I have a Word document on my desktop. The Word doc is on "Notebook" layout - each student has a tab. When things happen (a student is elected as a peer helper, I notice someone helping another student, I see a pattern of missing assignments), I write a quick bullet on that student's tabbed page. Come report card time, I change the bullets into sentences and reference for grading.


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