Deirdre Moore | January 2015

Transitions: Guiding the Flow of Learning

Colors, soft colors
Gently are falling
Magically making
Everything bright!

That’s a transition I used recently in one of my early childhood music and movement classes.  It’s a rhythmic chant whose original lyrics are:

Snowflakes, soft snowflakes
Gently are falling
Magically making
Everything white.

By changing the words to the chant when we’ve completed work on that chant with finger play, I can continue to reinforce the rhythm of the original. All while taking out, and throwing in the air the colorful scarves for the next song’s use.  The rhythm and momentum of the learning continues as I prepare the students for another song and using a prop.  There is an art to making good transitions. Good transitions can make your teaching appear as well-rehearsed as a seamless performance.  Smooth transitions in the classroom can make your job easier and make the school day more productive for both you and the students.

Transitions and Learning

I was thinking about transitions one day as it often seems to be a learning stumbling block for a number of children and it can really steal time away from teaching when you have to reign in the students who have lost focus.  Interestingly, I don’t remember being given any instruction on successful transitions when I was in a teacher preparation program and yet it is one of those behavior management tools that is so instrumental to facilitating a successful learning environment.

What is so lovely about my early childhood classes is that they are just that – classes.  They run for 45 minutes so the only transitions I need to worry about are between the songs that we sing and the opening and closing of class.  I don’t have to be prepared to create successful transitions all day long.  It also affords me the opportunity to really craft those 45 minutes and think deeply about how I will transition from one activity to the next.  How will I move the class from sitting to standing or back down to sitting?

How will I take out a new prop or instrument while continuing to keep the class engaged?  Should I be singing or chanting to make that transition or is this a point where I intentionally remain silent to allow time to observe whether any of the children naturally continue the learning by continuing to sing or allowing the parents to interact with their child or one another?

The more intentional we can be with all aspects of our teaching, the better it will be.

Ironically, I have found, the better planned I am, the better I can handle when things don’t go as planned.   The more comfortable you become with what you are teaching, the more finely tuned your teaching can become.  If you are an experienced teacher you probably already have lots of tricks up your sleeve for transitions and have trained your children to move successfully from one activity to another.  If that is where you are, you are ready to take your transitions to the next level.  You are ready to think about how the two events can be connected so the learning never stops and be aware when it’s time to step back and watch what learning is happening naturally.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.