Transitions are a part of our daily lives. We wake up, go to work, eat meals and go to sleep. We also experience larger transitions such as births and deaths, moving and new jobs. Students in school have transitions, too. Successfully transitioning from one activity or classroom to another can be more difficult for some students. A concern that arises for the parents and guardians of students who may find transitioning hard is the number of transitions students experience within a school day.
Transitions at WPS happen for a variety of reasons. Students visit specialists such as Art, Music, PE and Library. Students go to lunch and recess. They participate in classroom transitions such as from one content block to another. Students prepare for the end of the day dismissal procedure. Students transition to work with other teachers and support staff for a short period of time for targeted learning based on their individual needs. This last type of transition is one of the ways we strive to provide a student-centered learning experience that is customized for each of our learners! Young learners with short attention spans especially benefit from transitions and help them perform better as their day is separated into shorter timeframes. They find more success and demonstrate on-task behavior when they meet as a class, have a mini-lesson and receive instruction, and then move on to small group or individual work.
The ability to transition smoothly is an important factor in school and life success. At WPS, we want students to safely transition by keeping hands and feet to self, using a quiet or zero-voice level, having walking feet and returning any classroom materials to their proper place. We expect students to complete transitions within the classroom in a timely fashion, meaning some transitions may take only a minute or two to complete. Some of the skills we teach as part of this process are listening, personal body space, following directions, responsibility and proper voice level.
Teachers make transitions fun while continuing the academic learning. A class on the move from one activity to the next might sing the alphabet song or another rhyming song. As a teacher walks his class down the hall he models a whisper voice while he quizzes students about letter sounds or math facts. As students clean up from an activity they count by 5s or 10s. As students move from desks to sitting on the rug, a teacher may ask students to put their hands up in the air if the teacher says 2 words that rhyme. When students transition quickly and are briefly waiting for classmates to join them on the rug, the sitting students quietly and cooperatively play “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” As educators, we want maximize and reinforce learning, never wasting a moment while keeping students on task.
Even when teachers design transitions to be fun, we understand that some students experience difficulty during these times. To help these students and their teachers, there is a team of professionals available for support. Teachers access our guidance staff to brainstorm ways to support the student or provide direct counseling for the student. Teachers within the classroom use supports such as holding a hand when in line, having a designated rug spot near the teacher, a picture schedule to anticipate upcoming transitions and use praise and rewards for successful transitions. If a student has a pattern of difficulty transitioning, a team of educators and often parents/guardians meet to develop an individual behavior plan that includes research-based effective practices.
So just like we teach students lifelong skills to be a reader, writer and a mathematician, we teach our students the lifelong skill of how to transition from activity to activity!