Totally Terrific Transitions


Think about a classroom, any classroom.  When you think of this room, what do you see, what do you hear?  If it is your own classroom you know these sights and sounds by heart, but if you are visiting a new classroom you may have a lot to learn. As children are welcomed into a new classroom they have procedures, routines, expectations and transitions to learn.  As teachers set up their daily schedules they teach and reteach procedures and routines, but how important are transitions?  Are transitions really needed for students to move from one activity to another?

Let’s start by first defining what a transition is.  According to Hemmeter, Ostrosky, Artman and Kinder (2008), “Within early childhood contexts, transitions are the times in the day when children move or change from one activity to another” (pg.1).

Important Things About Transitions:

Transitions help children feel successful because as you teach transitions you are building a trusting relationship with each student. 

When you use transitions children know and understand what is expected of them, and when they are to move or complete a task. 

A transition should be the same every day and consistently used.

A warning may also be given 5 minutes before a transition to allow children time to finish what they are doing.  (Some children may have trouble just stopping a project on the spot to clean up).

When Transitions may be used: (Just a few, you may have other times)

1. Arrival

2. Dismissal

3. Moving from one activity to the next

4. Moving from one center to another

5. Leaving table time

6. Lining up at the door

7. Time to clean up an area

Because transitions give children cues on when to clean up, when to move from one activity to another and when to do certain things, here is a list of transitions to try:

1. Ringing a bell

2. Playing music (play the same thing every time for the same transition).

3. Play a game (if you have pink socks on you may line up at the door)

4. Use animal movements (if you have pink socks on move as slow as a turtle to the center of your choice).

5. Musical instrument (water stick, tambourine, bells, maracas etc).

5. Clapping your hands

6. A word, a saying, or a song that students can join in on.

7. Blow a whistle/musical instrument

8. Use a timer

9. Rainstick

An early childhood schedule is full of times where children move from one activity to another. It is important as you teach procedures and routines that you use transitions and keep them consistent. You have to decide what works best for you and your students and employ them in your environment.  Just as you would teach a procedure and routine you must teach children the transitions and what is expected of them.

Mary Louise Hemmeter, Michaelene M. Ostrosky, Kathleen M. Artman, and Kiersten A. Kinder (2008). Planning transitions to prevent challenging behavior.
Beyond the Journal • Young Children on the Web • May 2008

Other resources:

Songs for Classroom Transitions

Transitions Strategies

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places: