KinderGals: Tackling Transitions: Five Easy Steps to Tame Your Transitions

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tackling Transitions: Five Easy Steps to Tame Your Transitions

While many teachers have already started school, the rest are just a few weeks behind those ever important first few weeks of school. As we start a new year, one question we need to ask is, "What is important about those first few weeks?" My principal once told me, "Get them here, get them fed, and get them home!"
But, in the classroom establishing routines and procedures becomes our number one important task! As my friend Donna says, "You can't teach a class you can't manage!" Here are 5 Easy Steps that we use to Tame Our Transitions!
The first thing is to develop catch phrases. These are phrases that you use when you want a certain reaction. ***These phrases are most successful with repeated practice during those first few weeks. Practice using them at random times, reminding the children at each time the expectation. Notice children who are doing the right thing and tell the other children what they are doing correctly!

Attention Getting Phrases:

Whenever I say "1,2,3 Look at me!", my children respond with "1,2 Eyes on you." This is my signal for getting their attention regardless as to where we are or what we are doing.  It is important to be consistent and to stick to one phrase. Using many attention getting phrases will confuse your children and not get you the results you want!

Reminder Phrases:

Reminder Phrases are a great way to remind the children in a non-confrontational way of the expected behavior. I learned this one from my friend Mary, a first grade teacher. One day in the hall, I heard her tell her children "Check Yourself." All of a sudden they all returned to the line and assumed the correct posture for moving down the hall.  Wow! I am so stealing that idea!  I use it for more than hallway behavior. If I am reading a story and I see kids moving around, I can just say "check yourself."  During those first few weeks of school we have practiced what it looks like to sit on the carpet during story time, so  when I say those magic words, the children quickly get back on their square with their hands and feet in the proper places. 

Get Ready Phrases:

I wanted to have a way to get the children ready to move to the hallway. Catch phrases trigger the brain in a much quicker fashion than when we are nagging or telling the children over and over what we want.  To get ready for the hall, I say "ready set" and they say back "you bet".  They know this means to get their bodies and mouths ready for the hallway.
Another way to Tame Your Transitions is to use non-verbal reminders.  Ever catch yourself nagging? Sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher? I'm sure we have all found ourselves in that trap.  How can we get the behavior we want without saying ANYTHING? Here are a few of my favorite:

Target Rule:

Whenever there is a certain rule that the children are having a difficult time with, I make it a target rule.  Collect several small toys, clip art images, magnets, etc. Display the items. (I usually start with about 5-6, but if it is a real problem, you may need more. You don't want to run out!) If I am working on them not yelling out the answers when I ask a question, I write that as my target rule. Then, when someone "breaks" the target rule, instead of lecturing the children, I simply remove one of the clip art images.  I don't need to say anything--they get it! The clip art acts as a visual remind of a behavior!

Clean Up:

Another non-verbal reminder is for cleaning up.  When it is time to clean up, I simply turn on music. The kids know, when music comes on, clean up! If they get cleaned up before the music is off, they earn a piece of the Mr. Potato Head (or whatever we are building at that time of year).
You may be asking, "What do the kids 'get' if they make the Mr. Potato Head or if they keep the magnets on the cookie sheet?" A huge part of Taming Transitions is to get your "team" to work together!
Have you ever used a treasure chest? A place where kids visit if they are doing the right thing? I know I did at one time.  Here's what I noticed...the kids that went, would have behaved even if there wasn't a treasure chest. The children who didn't go, were not motivated or were unable to control their behaviors to get to go! Think of it like this...what if the principal had donuts. When you walked into the faculty meeting, he had a list of teachers who had turned in their plans on time. Only those teachers were given donuts.  Would that develop team spirit? How would you feel if you did get a donut? Would it motivate you if you didn't, or would it embarrass you or humiliate you? Instead, a dynamic leader, knows to develop a get the teachers to work together and support and help each other.
In our class we work together to earn marbles for a class jar. We call them happy rocks...because they make the teacher happy!  At the beginning of the year, we earn marbles quickly, filling up the jar in the first few days.  If we keep the magnets on the cookie sheet, we get marbles. If we help  each other, we get marbles. If we clean up, we get marbles. If we get compliments, we get marbles.  We are working as a team! 
You might be asking, what is the reward for filling up that jar or making the Mr. Potato Head? Here's what I am not going to do...I'm not going to give them candy. I'm not going to go to the dollar store and buy them something. Instead, I want them to learn the REASON for good behavior--we get to do cool things! Once we fill the jar, I simply look at my plans and see something really fun that I ALREADY had planned (they don't know that!). That becomes the Marble Jar Party or the Mr. Potato Head Party! It sounds like this, "Oh my goodness. Look we filled our jar! Today after recess we are going to stay outside and use sidewalk chalk. You can write your names, letters, words, or numbers. Show me what you can write! Won't that be fun?"  That's right! It was something I was going to do already! 
One of the best ways to tame transitions is with music. I have my favorites, I am sure you do too.  I love anything that Jack Hartmann does. He has a utube channel! You can get his music for FREE!  Here is his channel  Another favorite of mine is Shari Sloane.  She is a kindergarten teacher in Minnesota, presenter, and musician!  You can order her cds from her website or on iTunes.
I made power point presentations to go with my favorite songs by these two amazing talented people! Here's how I use them:
  •  I saved them as a pdf.
  • The pdf can be converted to smart board slides and I can use them on my smart board while we are cleaning up.  I play the song from my ipod as I flip through the slides.
  • I can also print them as little books.
  • I took a blank cd and burned each one song onto the cd.
  • Then, I put a sticky cd pocket  to the back of the book to hold the cd.
  • If you want to read more about music in the classroom, here is a blog post I did about it. 
Make the most of your transitions by making them count!  Ever play the quiet game? I know I did! I did it because I didn't know what else to do! But, there are so many other things we can do that also build concepts at the same time! Think about those activities you use during math and literacy that came become a transition activity. Here are a few examples:

Five Little Chefs:

First Get Ready!
  • I made the puppet faces using splatter guards. The kids LOVE them!
  • I made an interactive chart where the chefs and the numerals are removable.
  • I made a flap book so that as I sang the song, I could flap down one of the chefs.
  • I found a placemat with chefs that I cut out and put magnets on the back of each chef.
  • The tune for this song is "Five Little Ducks".
  • I made a poetry card and pages for the children to manipulate the chefs as we sang.
  • I put the poetry cards in our poetry center for the children to visit again.
Here's how you can use them:
  • During Math, we used the flap book, placemat magnets, and the student reproducible to develop a conceptual understanding of adding one more. As I manipulate the magnets, the children manipulate their paper chefs. Then, we record the number sentences on the recording pages.
  • During Literacy, we used the interactive chart and chef puppets, to develop concepts of print and oral prosody.  Developing prosody is essential to becoming a fluent reader. I talked about this more on the music post referenced above.
  • Now we are ready to use these items as transitions. As the kids are cleaning up, use any of the props to engage the children as they gather on the rug.
I love to use cookie sheets! Here is a example for the Five Little Snowmen chant.
  • This is great for teaching combinations of 5 or the concept of one less.
  • As we say the chant, we remove the snowmen from the cookie sheet. 
  • Be sure and put your words on the back of the cookie sheet! It's amazing how easily we forget them! I put the words on the back of the cookie sheet with magnets. That way, when we are singing, I can display the text. Then, just return it to the back of the cookie sheet for storage.
  • Once again, the kids are manipulating the snowmen as we sing to develop those number concepts at the conceptual level. 
  • After using the snowmen in a math lesson, I invite the children to store them in a snack size baggie. They keep the baggie in their carpet bag. Then, whenever we are singing the song, they can pull out their snowmen for 100% engagement!
If you are looking for these resources, all of the phrases, non-verbal engagement, team building sign, Five Little Chefs chart and book, Five Little Snowmen, and many other resources are from the unit Tackling Transitions.
The poetry/song cards and the student reproducibles for the Five Chefs as well as many other songs/poems are from the unit Poetry Plus.
The music books/pdfs for the smart board are in these units. You will need to purchase the music from Shari and Jack.
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