Classroom Management: Transitions

Classroom Management Transitions
Cross Country Education
August 09, 2022 09:56 AM (GMT-04:00)
Educator Resources

Regardless of your professional role within the classroom, the students you work with transition between activities, tasks, classes, groups and more. Transitions in the classroom can take up incredible amounts of time. One study says that “time in transition has been found to consume as much as 25% of non-learning activities in the classroom.” (Codding & Smyth) Our goal is to help you prepare students for, effectively manage and reduce the time spent on transitions.


The mantra “show don’t tell” doesn’t just apply to creative writing courses. Preparing your students to transition in the precise way you’d like them to requires transitions to be modeled first. Show students how you’d like them to appropriately transition. After you have displayed how to transition, have a small group of students do a demonstrative practice in front of the class. Use this demonstration to create a conversation amongst the entire class. Follow this up with an entire class practice. Conclude with a discussion surrounding the transition and goals of the transition.

Some additional strategies that help students prepare for transitions include:

  • Provide a visual schedule. “Visual schedules can allow individuals to view an upcoming activity, have a better understanding of the sequence of activities that will occur, and increase overall predictability”. ²
  • Give students advance verbal notice. In the behavioral world this is often referred to as “priming” or “front loading.”
  • Prepare materials in advance for students to grab and go can also be an effective preventative measure for transitions.
  • Ensure the previous activity is ended or completed prior to transitioning.


“In transitions, we demand a lot from students - we ask them to halt their current routine, perform a long chain of tasks, and initiate a new activity, all without breaking classroom rules.” ³ With the demand of transitions in mind we’d like to cover how you can manage transitions effectively. Firstly, we’d recommend positively praising any and all students who are appropriately transitioning. If you see that students are doing the right thing let them know. Praise not only notifies the student who you are praising that they are transitioning correctly but it also sends a message to the rest of the class that the student being praised is an example.

A few other techniques that could help your students master transitions are:

  • Practice throughout the year to continually hold students to a high standard.
  • Utilize a visual timer that displays the expected quantity of time a transition should take.
  • Greet students at the door for transitioning back into the classroom is a vital part of managing a transition for all grade levels. One study even found that “the PGD (Positive Greetings at the Door) strategy produced significant improvements in academic engaged time and reductions in disruptive behavior.”

Efficiently Transition

Time is of the essence in education. Having students transition efficiently can not only save you time for academic instruction but it can save you energy as well. One way to reduce time spent on transitions is to objectively reflect on the instructions you are giving. A few questions to ask yourself when doing this are:

  • 1. Do I have all students’ attention prior to giving directions?
  • 2. Are my directions clear?
  • 3. Are my directions concise?
  • 4. Do I give the students too many directions at once?

Being honest with yourself isn’t an opportunity to disparage your efforts but a chance for growth for you as an educator. Furthermore, we recommend the following strategies to help efficiently transition your students:

  • Make transitions a game that creates a classroom sense of community. Incentivize the class to transition appropriately under a certain amount of time for a previously agreed upon reward.
  • Use music as a transitional cue. This technique is similar to a visual timer with a twist.

Transitions can be a source of contention for some teachers, so now is the chance to improve upon your methods and minimize the stress associated with this time. You can do this by following these strategies of planning, managing and effectively transitioning.


1. Codding, R. S. & Smyth, C. A. (n.d.). Using performance feedback to decrease classroom transition time and examine collateral effects on academic engagement. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved July 12, 2022, from

2. Hume, K. (2008). Transition time: Helping individuals on the autism spectrum move successfully from one activity to another. Indiana Resource Center for Autism. Retrieved July 15, 2022, from

3. Mcintosh, K., Herman, K., Sanford, A., McGraw, K., & Florence, K. (2004). Teaching Transitions: Techniques for Promoting Success Between Lessons. Teaching Exceptional Children . Retrieved 2022, from https//

4. Cook, C. R., Fiat, A., Larson, M., Daikos, C., Slemrod, T., Holland, E. A., Thayer, A. J., & Renshaw, T. (2018). Positive greetings at the door: Evaluation of a low-cost, high-yield proactive classroom management strategy. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 20(3), 149–159.

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