Help for Transitions


Transition times are important opportunities for setting the tone of activities in the school setting.  For elementary-aged children, when transition expectations are unclear, misbehavior and disruption to the entire classroom can result.  Here are some suggestions that can help you minimize distractions and make the most of transitions across activities, classes and settings!


-Signal Upcoming Changes…let children know when to be winding up an activity.  Say “you have five more minutes until clean up time”

-Count Down…after the first notice, give a second notice to remind students who didn’t hear you the first time, Say, “you have one more minute”, “you should be putting your papers in your folder”

-Attention Signals…when switching activities, use a fingerplay for small children, use a hand signal, clap or “simon says” game to gain the attention of all students before giving directions for ending the activity or beginning the next activity

-Give Clear, Concise, Doable Directions…avoid general directions like “line-up”, “clean-up,” “get ready for math.”  Instead, say what you want students to do, such as,  put your folder in your desk,” “get your math book and put it on your desk” or  “walk to the door”.

-Use lining up as an opportunity to practice listening skills and basic concepts… think of new ways to line your students up…for example, line up if… your name begins with B, if you’re wearing green, etc…  When you do this, all of the students aren’t making a mad rush to be first in line.  They have to wait for your verbal or visual direction.  This also teaches concept vocabulary and listening for key words…an important skill for following directions in classrooms.  It’s also a great way to practice sign language for names, colors, or birth months, whatever you can imagine!




-Sing Transitional Songs…I like to sing the song,  “Willaby Wallaby Woo”… when the child hears their name in the song, they line up or do whatever it is you have designated them to do.  Willaby, Wallaby is also a great way to practice rhyming skills!  Sing clean up songs, good morning songs, goodbye songs or make up your own song!  Hello and Goodbye Songs also signal changes in activities, and help children know something new is coming up!

-Give behavioral expectations at transition time…”We are going to go to P.E., we’ll need to walk quietly in the hallway, so let me know with a thumbs up that you are ready to go,” or “show me listening strategy for the hallway.”

-Have an Agenda!  To keep kids on track of when to expect changes, give them an idea of what is going to be happening at the beginning of each instructional time, for example,  first we will talk about body parts that help you listen, then we will do a listening activity while sitting and lastly we will do a listening game while standing.”  Review each step as you progress through the lesson to help students be aware of upcoming transitions.

-Let students know where they are to be before they enter a room or do an activity…teach students what your designated areas are “circle area,” “book area,  and so forth.  I routinely teach how to make a circle around the room when I visit you at the beginning of the year, so that I can do large motor musical activities throughout the year without too much disruption.  This also becomes an important skill when students enter unfamiliar classrooms or arts & humanities rooms. 

-Common Vocabulary…Be sure you pay attention to your vocabulary as you tell students where to be and what to do.  Do they all know what the “book area” is, or what “make a circle around the room” means?  Giving the students common vocabulary will help reduce confusion during transition time.









Developed by:  Brenda Addington, MA CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist, Jessamine County Schools, Nicholasville, Kentucky   e-mail: