3 Secrets to Effective Classroom Transitions

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children raising their hands as they transition from one subject to another
Emma (Teach Starter)

Written by Emma (Teach Starter)

If you’ve struggled with classroom transitions, you’re not alone. Helping students move from one task to another can be a challenge, even for seasoned veteran teachers. But consider this: If you spent just 15 minutes on a classroom transition once a day for an entire school year, you’d lose 45 HOURS of instructional time!

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That’s about a week of school lost to transitions! Want to grab that time back? We took a look at the three types of transitions and have some tried and true transition strategies that can help you spend more time on teaching!


What Is a Classroom Transition?

Put simply, a classroom transition is the process of moving from one lesson, space, or event to another during the course of the school day. They happen several times a day and they can be simple or more complicated with a need to change locations and the collecting or swapping books and equipment.

What Are the 3 Types of Transitions?

Students will make numerous transitions throughout a school day, but they all break down to three types of transitions:

  1. Entering class
  2. Switching from one activity to another
  3. Exiting the class

Some examples of classroom transitions are:

  • Moving from carpet time to desk work
  • Coming back into the classroom after lunch or recess
  • Returning from specials (P.E., music, art, etc.)
  • Going to another area of the school such as the library, the cafeteria, or the computer lab
  • Rotating from one small group activity to another.

Why Are Transitions Important in Teaching?

Transitions can be incredibly efficient if coordinated effectively. They give students a break by providing them the opportunity to get out of their seats and switch their focus to a new task.

What is a Classroom Transition?

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Transitions give students an opportunity to stretch their bodies and take a break from learning – both incredibly important for maintaining concentration throughout the school day.

Classroom transitions can also be used to minimize disruption from restless students when timed appropriately. However, they can also cause excitability if mismanaged. So, now that we know why transitions are important, how do you make sure they’re effective?


Great Classroom Transition Strategies

Prepare Kids for Signals

From the first week of school, work to let your students know signals that you’ll be using so they know what they mean — and can quickly adapt. 

A key to successful transitions is making sure your students feel in control and feel like they are managing their own time, so letting them know what to expect and do puts them in the driver’s seat when it comes to making good choices! 

Cues are Key

Getting your students to quickly drop everything and prepare to change activities does take some practice. You need your students to know exactly what to do when you want their attention, and they need to do it fast! Sometimes it can feel as though clapping isn’t the most feasible way to capture your students’ attention. Why not try something more fun, such as our Attention-Grabbing Phrase Cards?

These are the questions you need to answer as you begin setting up your classroom transitions.

If you are asking students to collect and organize their own supplies, make sure it is in a place they can all easily access without causing a traffic jam. Alternatively, give one of your students the materials manager job for a whole week so there’s no confusion as to who’s carrying what!

Classroom transitions - grab their attention

Your students will love to reply to your call! Whenever you’re ready to stop an activity and move on to the next one, simply call out one of the phrases on the cards, and watch them snap to attention!

Transition With Movement and Music

As I mentioned before, transitions are a great opportunity to get your students up and moving – waking their brains up and giving them a good stretch. Instead of letting the movements get out of control, why not turn it into a little bit of fun?

Transition Songs

This fun video from GoNoodle is the perfect video to get your students ready to transition to lunch at the end of an activity! In a quick 1 minute and 44 seconds, your students will be packing up, cleaning up, and singing and dancing along to the song.

The song lyrics themselves may not be relevant, but playing the song is a great cue that students have a certain amount of time to clean up and get in line!

If you don’t want to play a video, a simple music track will do the trick! Playing particular songs when you want your students to complete different transitions is a great way to train them to transition a certain way on cue – and the best part is that they know they only have until the song is up to complete the transition!

Move Your Body

Obviously, moving and grooving your body to music isn’t really feasible when you’re moving around the school grounds! So how do you make walking in the hallways interesting and engaging for your students?

There will always be a time and a place for a straight line quietly walking from one classroom to the next, but for those times in between, use our How to walk like a… Instruction Cards!

How to Walk Like a... Classroom Transition

These fun movement cards encourage your class to concentrate on their walk through the school to ensure they complete the right actions. Their eyes are less likely to wander, their mouths are less likely to chatter, and their minds and bodies will be nicely exercised by the time they reach their destination!


What’s your favorite transition trick?

Comment below to share your ideas!

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