Effective Ways to Master Transitions in Your Classroom




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Getting the most out of your instructional time is critical for students’ learning and achievement. One of the most important factors that impact teachers’ instructional time is their ability to manage transitions effectively.

There are instances, some teachers complain about how long it takes them to get their students to transition from one activity to another. Depending on the situation, the teacher can be blamed or not.

No matter the situation, no teacher should lose hope in the fight to master the process of classroom transitioning. This is because there are some techniques you can put in place to help you succeed.

In this article, we are going to look at some of these strategies and how you can implement them to get better results.   

We believe that you can become effective in managing transitions in your classroom by following the steps below, recommended by Kapalka (2006):

1. Prepare Yourself and Your Student.

2. Set the Rules.

3. Set the Reward for Following the Rules.

4. Set the Consequences for not Following the Rules.

5. Give Sufficient Warnings.

6. Implement the Transition.

I have been using this system in my classroom, and my students now respond well to it. But I didn’t find it easy implementing and getting everyone to accept it at the beginning.

What is Transition in the Classroom?

Classroom transition refers to a movement from one classroom activity to another. The movement of students to the classroom from their homes and beginning lessons is one form of transition.

It can also be a movement from a listening activity to a writing activity in a language lesson.

Further, it can take a form of a movement from one lesson (math) to another (music). A transition also happens when students return to their classes after recess time is over.

Also, a departure from the classroom to other places in the school is a form of transition.

Transition time is the period it takes a class to fully transition from one activity to another. This time is essential for students’ success.

Why is Transition Management Important in the Classroom?

Effective transition management in the classroom is important due to the following:

1. It directly impacts the learning and achievement of students. For example, let us assume a class takes ten minutes to transition, and a lesson is 40 minutes (like in my school). It means the teacher has only 30 minutes left to deliver the lesson.

2. It reduces teacher stress and burnout.

3. It increases the instructional time of the teacher.

4. It removes chaotic situations in the classroom.

Why is Transition Difficult for Some Students?

Numerous factors account for students having difficulty in transitioning from activities to other activities.

This is especially the case when the students enjoy or are enjoying the current activity. In this situation, students will find it difficult to transition saying, “I am enjoying this activity, so I can’t leave it.”

Often students who have self-control will pause a bit and say, “I am enjoying this activity, but I have to stop doing it even though I don’t want to.”

With that, they respond by following the commands and instructions of the teacher and finally move to the next activity.

However, not all students have self-control. Impulsive students often struggle to follow the instructions of the teacher when they are asked to transition from activities they enjoy.

With that, they have difficulty suppressing their frustrations. They, therefore, tend to oppose the teacher’s commands regarding the transition. Hence, they end up telling the teacher, “I don’t want to stop the activity.”

Generally, classroom transitions are difficult for impulsive students.

What are the Effective Ways to Reduce Transition Time?

Now that we have understood what classroom transitions are and why they are difficult for some students, we need to explore some tips to reduce the time we spend in its process.

The following are some guidelines, when followed and practiced with patience, will help you become effective in managing transitions in your classroom.

Prepare Yourself

Before implementing this strategy, you need to prepare yourself psychologically. You need to know that students will not always want to transition to other activities, especially if they enjoy the current activity.

If you have impulsive and oppositional students, expect to face lots of challenges in applying the transition strategy.

You may even see tempers flare up when you approach them to stop the current activity and start the next.

No matter the situation, remain calm and be patient with them. It is necessary to work to improve and control yourself when dealing with students who oppose your commands regarding transition.

It is always important to address the decision not to transition (behavior) and not the attitude or personality behind it.

Knowing your students well can help you prepare yourself adequately. Be consistent and never give up on your students and the strategy. Be patient with them, and you will see improvements with time.  

Establish the Rules

Having prepared yourself to use the transition strategy with your students, it is critical to set up some rules regarding the process. Tell them what to do for the transition to take place.

Aside from establishing the rule, you need to learn to issue the transition commands effectively. Maintain a commanding posture and be firm when issuing commands regarding transition. Read this article for more information on how to issue effective commands.

It is often useful to inform students beforehand about a possible transition. Don’t forget to remind and warn them about it three to five minutes before.

This gives impulsive students the chance to process and prepare for it. This is because they have difficulty accepting decisions that caught them off guard.   

Set the Reward for Following the Rules

Here, decide the reward for obeying the rules of the transition. Effective teachers always include the incentives for following rules and responsibilities in a behavioral contract with each student.

However, it is possible to have one behavioral contract with the entire class. Check here for more information on how to create behavioral contracts with your students.

Rewards often motivate students to put up good behaviors in the class. It works well for many students, even though it must be adapted to the nature of students and the context. Find out more information on how to use rewards in the classroom.

Set the Consequences for not Following the Rules

Not everyone will end up following the rules established regarding the transition. It is, therefore, possible to establish the consequences for not doing so.

Also, you can include this in the behavioral contracts you established with the students individually. Therefore, make good use of it.

The consequences can be a natural ones. That is, denying a person the reward for not obeying or delaying the transition.

But other times you may be compelled to use negative consequences for not transitioning from an activity. This, however, should be commensurable to the reward the student would have earned for complying.

Give Sufficient Warnings

Give sufficient warnings to students regarding the transition. This is necessary for students to prepare adequately to respond to it.

This impacts how effective the transition will happen. As mentioned earlier, some students take time to process the command of transition.

Therefore, without much time to prepare for it, they will put up oppositional responses. Hence, challenging your commands.

Find an appropriate tool or strategy for warning students effectively. Keep calm and remove all distractions when issuing the warning.

Try to be respectful when issuing warnings. Don’t yell or scream in the process of warning students.       

Implement the Transition

Here, transition students immediately to the next activity. If a student transitions well, then the reward promised can be dispensed.

For students who don’t transition successfully, let them know of the consequences for not doing so, as established earlier.

Remember, some students may lose their temper and start a tantrum. When that happens, deal with it appropriately and gently. You may have to administer time-out, and this article will be useful for you.

Don’t forget to follow through with all that you said when you were preparing students and setting rules for the transition.

Dispense all the promised rewards and consequences for obeying or otherwise to the process. That is critical to your credibility.


Regarding every classroom management strategy, you must practice, practice, and practice the process. This is because you may not be able to get it right on the first go.

Therefore, you must often practice with the student to become effective in administering the transition.

The more you practice with students, the more get used to the process and adjust appropriately.    


To conclude, we have seen why transitions are difficult for some students, such as the impulsive ones. We also looked at why managing transitions effectively is important. We finally gave some ways to managing transitions effectively and successfully. Please, share with others to benefit from the article. Thank you.

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