Classroom transitions are more important than we realize. Time is a precious commodity in today’s classroom. The time it takes to transition from one activity to the next can eat up what we have left for instruction. Any moment our students lose focus can mean time lost trying to get them back on track. One fabulous thing about the arts is that they can help us transition our students while reinforcing arts concepts.
Allow me to share a few examples…
Let’s say you are trying to reinforce the difference between axial movement(dancing in self space) and locomotor movement (dancing throughout the whole dance space or general space). You can specify the level, the energy or the type of movement. If your students are waiting in line for a moment, direct them to show an axial movement at a high level, with smooth energy or a stretching axial movement. If you want your students to move from the rug back to their seats, direct them to use locomotor movement at a high level, with smooth energy (slide, skate, float, fly, etc), or a specific locomotor movement like tip-toe. All of these movements are done with the body only so the transitions are done quietly.
Pantomime is great for transitions since by definition it requires silence! If you just finished reading Miss Rumphious to your students, for example, you can direct them to move back to their seats pantomiming what she did to make the world more beautiful (scatter lupine seeds). Or give them a general movement challenge like pantomiming walking through tall grass, or mud, or peanut butter. You could also have them simply walk to the destination but once there strike a frozen shape or tableau using facial expression and posture to demonstrate how the main character was feeling at the climax of the story.
Just as pantomime and tableaux in theater require silence, so does audiation in music. Audiation is that skill which allows us to hear a song in our heads before we sing it. For the very young, singing repetitive songs with hand motions like “Open and Shut” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Sing the song with them at point A. The students move in silence to point B audiating or “singing” the song in their heads. Once at point B they continue to audiate while using the hand motions with you leading. On the next go around, you can sing the song aloud again with the hand motions.
Conversely you can have the students continue to sing as they move to point B rather than moving in silence. On arrival, they can whisper the song while doing the hand motions and end the song doing only the hand motions while audiating the song in their heads. This way, you end in silence with a high level of concentration and focus. For older students you can accomplish the same ends working on rhythm or tonal patterns. Play, sing or clap a pattern for the students. Students walk to the destination in silence all the while rehearsing or audiating the pattern in their heads. Once at their destinations, you cue that tonal or rhythm pattern noticing if they successfully rehearsed or audiated the pattern.
Visual art is great because it’s, well, visual. Using your eyes to observe is also a silent activity (noticing a pattern here?). Ask the students to notice a particular element on which you’d like them to focus. Direct them to notice how many shades of blue they can see, how many curved lines they see, how many different textures they see, or places where complimentary colors occur next to one another. Once at their seats you can have students pair share and then have a few students share with the whole class.
Just by taking one element of any of the art forms, you can have more orderly and meaningful transitions that energize the mind, focus energy, reinforce arts concepts, and strengthen arts skills.