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Transitions ideas-What works for you?

Classroom Management 


Full Member
Over the last 10 years of teaching I have tried various transition ideas to move my class from one subject to another. I've tried a timer, a bell, a clap, using a phrase each time and a contest for how fast they move. But none of them seem to stick for me because, although they may work at first, over time the students lose interest and don't perform. So I am wondering what transition do you do and why is it your favorite? Thanks.


Full Member

I do not like transitions. They can really be disruptive so I do something I call melting. On a good day, I make sure that when they finish what they are doing, they have the next item on their desk and can melt into it. Nobody works at the exact same pace, but after about a month I can predict who will be ready to melt into the next thing first and it is usually because they rushed through it and didn't pay attention to detail. I send them back to the original task to make it better before they move on. Does that make sense? By the way, I teach 90 minute blocks to 12th graders, and that works well with them. I don't know what your teaching situation is. Good luck!!


Senior Member
I post the day's agenda on the board with times and have found that it helps move kids from one activity to another. A bonus is that if I get caught up in a activity, the kids remind me it's time for ____________.

apple annie

Senior Member
Same here

I do the same as KAN. I started writing the daily schedule on the board, pretty detailed, for the benefit of an Aspberger's student who just had to know what was coming next. Turns out it really helped my whole class move along at a nice pace, so I've continued doing it ever since. They like it when i put a check by each item on the agenda as we finish it. I like that, too.


Senior Member
For many students there is little motivation to hustle during transitions. The faster they move the sooner they will have to go back to work.

Preferred Activity Time (PAT) from Fred Jones' Tools For Teaching is designed, among other things, to promote hustle. It's an incentive management intervention that uses learning related activities which are "preferred" that students will work for.

Before I started PAT it took the student sitting farthest from the door 2.5 minutes to enter the room, go to seat, take out materials and become fully engaged in the warm-up activity. After PAT it took the same student 17 seconds. I know because I timed him as part of introducing PAT to the class. Moving to groups of four from rows took 3-5 minutes with lots of bumping and talking. Using PAT students were able to move their desks and be on-task in 30 seconds and often less. Transitioning from one subject to another took 1-5 minutes. After PAT students were ready in less than 30 seconds majority of time. This included sharpening pencils and getting drinks. PAT is very little work for the teacher. The students do all the monitoring and ensure everyone hustles.


Senior Member

I play music when it's time to transition. The students respond well, are familiar with the songs, and know what to do when I play a certain song. For example, when I play "Let's get it started ..." (by Black-Eyed Peas), students know to throw their breakfast trash away/get out morning work and hw agendas. It pretty much signals class is beginning. Also, when I play "Hit the Road Jack" (by Ray Charles), students know to move to the next center or return to their desks. Well this is what I've done in fourth grade the past two years. I plan on using the same technique this year when I teach second grade.


Senior Member
Here are a few things I do:

1. chime-it's a nice light sound.

2. music-we have a song for various transitions (one song for coming to the rug for morning meeting, another for coming to the rug after writing, getting ready for recess, another for the end of the day clean up). We listen to the song several times to start with so they can hear it and they learn when it's coming to the end of the song. After they've heard it enough and can anticipate the end, when I play the song they know they need to have completed the transition by the end of the song.

I like the music transitions because it gives them a little more time. I choose longer songs for longer transitions and shorter songs for shorter transitions. They are allowed to visit with each other during the song as long as they are quiet and ready to start when the song ends.

I use "Hit the Road Jack" for the end of the day! I use TV theme show songs (Dallas is our transition after writing) and popular songs from Disney Movies such as "You've Got a Friend In Me" from Toy Story.

You can use appropriate songs for your grade level that they like (maybe even get a play list from the kids?).


Full Member
Great ideas

I have heard of PAT and I think it works well if I make sure they are given that PAT time with no interferences from other school activities. I know the students would love to use that for board games or kickball on the yard, etc. It emphasizes that when time is saved, then there is time to do the fun things we want to do. I think all of us could benefit from the break, :D.

I think the music is a nice way to lessen the tension in a classroom and it keeps people happy. I think I may try that more for centers, for the end of breakfast, and the end of the day. It keeps things lighthearted and I like it. Thank you everyone. I feel more motivated.


Junior Member
More music suggestions?

I have been rolling around the idea of using music for transitions this year. I have looked through the televisions tunes website but there are 1,000s of songs on there. Do any of you have specific suggestions for lining up, changing work stations, packing up at the end of the day, getting ready for recess? I already downloaded Jeopardy and the Price is Right.
Also, this sounds kind of silly, but how do you play the music? On an iPod, in a CD player, on the computer? I was thinking of using my phone, but I'm not sure about the volume.


Senior Member
Music is working amazing. I downloaded Rick Morris's music cues app. I love it! It's my tenth year and it's the first year I started using it. I will never go back.


Junior Member
Transitions and music

I still use an ipod on a Bose dock. It has plenty of volume and the ipod charges while it's on the dock so I never have to worry about the battery.
I have playlists for movement, writing (classical, no lyrics), coming in, end of day, etc. I found it really helps them get in the right frame of mind for what is next. When my writing set starts, after I've given them the mini lesson, they settle right in to writing. If they need to get up and move, I use something upbeat. Here are some sample playlists:
Morning Meeting: Happy Days Theme, If I Had $1,000,000, Lean On Me, Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)

Coming in: Walking on Sunshine, Walk Right In, The Wanderer, Getting Better, Brown Eyed Girl

Gathering: Stand By Me, Oh what a Beautiful Morning, Be True to Your School, Build Me Up Buttercup

Celebrations: Walking on Sunshine, When You're Hot, You're Hot, Born to Hand Jive, The Tonight Show Theme, Celebration

Endings: Who Let the Dogs Out, Happy Trails, So Long It's Been Good to Know You, Tomorrow

Writing: I use a CD titled Late Night Conversations by Eric Schoenberg and another called Recital by Steven

Hope that helps, there is a lot to choose from!


Senior Member
...I have heard of PAT and I think it works well if I make sure they are given that PAT time with no interferences from other school activities. I know the students would love to use that for board games or kickball on the yard, etc. It emphasizes that when time is saved, then there is time to do the fun things we want to do. I think all of us could benefit from the break...
PAT, done correctly, does not interfere with school activities. When some teachers first hear about PAT they can't imagine using 20 minutes of instructional time to play a "game". Yet, some of these same teachers will spend 5-7 minutes trying to settle the class during a transition like entering the room. In a week that's 25 to 35 minutes of lost instructional time. PAT can cut the transition time down to 30 seconds and often less. The reward is the class gets to engage in a learning game (PAT is not kickball unless you are a PE teacher and want to reinforce ball handling skills) which reviews and/or reinforces skills and concepts the teacher was planning to review anyway.

Some schools and grade levels have developed a bank of PAT activities to share which cover all kinds of skills and concepts.