Transitions

I was recently watching “The Biggest Loser” on television. The show ended at 10pm and before I was able to shut it off a voice came on that said, “The next episode of Law and Order begins right now!” And then boom, Law and Order was on and I was watching. By the time the first break came, about five minutes in, I was hooked. I rushed to the bathroom and hurried back so I wouldn’t miss the next segment.

Television has mastered the art of transition. It used to be that a show ended, credits rolled, a long commercial break followed, and then the next show began. Not anymore. Television stations know that once they lose a viewer, it is very hard to get that person back.

So how does this relate to teaching? Transitioning from one subject to another or from one activity to another can be a huge source of disruption. Teachers often tell me their class behaves so well during an activity, but once they are asked to transition from Math to English, or English to Science, or from a group activity to seat work, it becomes a free for all. The problem is that many teachers stop teaching during the transition.

For example, I often hear this, “Ok guys we are finished with English and you did a great job. I will give you 3 minutes and then we are starting Science. I’ll wait.” This is not the way. Law and Order does not wait. It begins, right now! Teachers should not wait either. Teach right through the transition.

Say this, “You have three minutes to return to your seats for Science, and while you are returning watch the demonstration I am doing. So walk and look at the same time.” I do this naturally in my seminar. I often do an activity where people work with partners. They are usually with someone on the opposite side of the room. When the activity is finished I instruct them back to their seats by saying, “As you are walking back to your seats I am going to share my favorite strategy of the day.” This is known as a tease, and most rush back to write it down. In a real classroom, teaching through transitions will help limit disruption. Then five minutes into the new activity you can take a break, if needed.