Transitioning from one activity to another can be made more effective with a little creative planning. I have found that there are many things that a teacher can do in the classroom to transition from one activity to another in a fluid, organized manner.  Having a well managed classroom is the key to a successful learning environment.  I hope that you are able to use some of the ideas listed in these pages. If you have suggestions for Transitional activities that could benefit another teacher, please send me an email.  Not all suggestions will make it onto the website, but your time and thoughtfulness are appreciated.  Please be sure to put "Transitions" in the subject line.
Thank you,
Mrs. McDavid 


Transitions That Work

To be an effective manager a teacher must anticipate problems and work to structure classroom activities so that they run smoothly.  Transitions between activities can be a source of discontent for many teachers.  In order to manage students effectively the teacher must first know where the lesson is going and how students are to respond. Left to their own devices students will soon become disruptive and the classroom environment will become strained.  The following transition strategies really work.  They are fun, easy to use, and can be quickly added to your existing routine. 

Sensational Signals
Create signals to gently remind students when to transition.  Signals send a message to the student when an activity is coming to a close and that they have 2-3 minutes to finish what they are working on.  Different signals can be designated for different activities (cleaning up, lining up, putting away materials, listening for directions, etc.).  Be sure to read Maintaining Student Focus for additional information.  The following is a short list of transitional signals:

Playing Music from a CD
Flashing the lights on and off
Beginning a rhythmic clapping pattern
Using the "Give Me Five" Strategy
Using bells, whistles, tambourines, etc.

Terrific Timers
Use a timer to keep students motivated.  Designate a specific amount of time for cleaning up or moving from desks to centers.  You can use a digital kitchen timer, count down from twenty, or use PowerPoint to create a visual timer.  I have included a PowerPoint timer below.  Feel free to download it and change it any way you like.  The timer is set for five minutes.  To add additional minutes to the timer you can add new slides and change the numbers.  Each slide is set to countdown in one-minute increments.

  PowerPoint Timer 

Simple Songs
Use fun, upbeat songs to transition between activities.  Children love music and playing music will definitely get their attention and bring their focus to the task at hand.  Pick several songs that you like and that you feel are fun and upbeat.  Assign each song to a specific task (cleaning up, getting in line, etc.).  Teach students that when they hear the song they are to stop what they are doing and follow the procedures associated with the music.  This strategy works really well.  Listed below are a few CD's that are popular in elementary classrooms.

Creative Chants
Use fun, rhythmic chants to transition between activities.  

Reward Smooth Transitions
It is important to reward students for a job well done.  Reward students for smooth transitions.  The reward can be very simple.  Children do not need a lot of extra incentives.  

  • Rewarding Individual Students - students love verbal praise, small pieces of candy (peppermint, a life savor, etc.), or even being the first person to line up for an activity.  

  • Rewarding Groups - groups of students can work together to earn rewards.  Groups can earn points on a tally chart.  Once students have earned a designated number of points (3-5 points) they earn a special reward.  A group reward can be very simple: verbal praise, popcorn for a snack, sitting with the teacher at lunch, or putting together a puzzle.

Transitions Tips for the Teacher

Be specific about how students are to transition between activities.  Never assume they know what you want.   



Model your expectations.  Teach students how to be successful during transitions by having them practice and rehearse what your expectations are for each activity.  For example, if you want students to come to the carpet you must practice how children will transition from their desk to the carpet and how they will behave once they get there.  If you use a signal to transition to the carpet be sure to practice the transition by using the signal.   

Be organized.  Set up materials in advance.  Always provide student's with the materials they will need for the next activity.

Monitor the students during transitions.  Scan the room looking for appropriate behavior.  Provide words of encouragement to students.  This will ensure smooth transitions.  Say things like "I love how you stopped what you were working on and began cleaning up".  

Move around the room.  Visit problem areas and make your presence known.  Redirect inappropriate behavior and bring student's attention to correct procedures.  Model procedures if necessary.



This website is designed and maintained by Karen A. McDavid 2004.


Ideas, content, activities, and documents for this website
are copyrighted by Karen A. McDavid and should not be
copied or downloaded without permission. 


All graphics seen throughout this website should
not be removed, copied, or downloaded. 


You may download the banner below with a link back to this site.


Graphics by



setstats 1