Step into any classroom for any age at any time of day, and teachers are likely to report that transitions between activities are when they lose the most instructional time with their students.
Luckily, you can read a lot more about how to run effective transitions in a million great instructional books out there. Some our favorites over at Together Teacher: Teach Like A Champion, Guiding Readers and Writers, and The First Days of School.
In the meantime, we’ll revisit Jenny C.’s Kindergarten classroom to see how she organizes herself, her co-teacher, and her students for efficient transitions. While this post may mostly appeal to lower elementary teachers, secondary folks can easily modify for inquiry groups with one group of students on computers researching, another group drafting, and yet another editing with the teacher.
The Facts: Jenny’s classroom has three 25-minute guided reading rotations. There are 30 students in total, split across five different groups.
Here’s a guide for reading Jenny’s awesome Guided Reading Chart:
Left side: Group name and color
Top: Numbered rotation
Stations: Pictures of Jenny and co-teacher, computers, red, yellow, or purple table.
Follow the Purple Parrots on the chart: they see Jenny for guided reading in rotation #1, the computers for rotation #2, and then they go back to the purple table for independent work time for rotation #3.
I asked Jenny about the benefits of setting up the chart with this level of detail and pictorial representation. She noted how her young students have learned to independently use this chart as a visual tool:
“Rotations at the beginning of the year took about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Now, students are prompted to look at the chart and transition. They take 20 seconds to get to their center with their book baggies. Transitions are highly successful– quick, silent, and allowing for more teaching and learning to get done! The chart also helps empower student independence in the classroom. The column all the way to the right has nothing to do with guided reading — it’s a rotation of picture icons for our indoor centers on the days that we have to stay inside for P.E. Since the tables are already organized on this chart, it made sense to add the indoor P.E. center pictures to it as well!”
Bonus Student Independence Alert: The big number in the upper-left corner (4) represents the student in each group who gets to pass out papers at the independent work tables for the week. This week, student #4 in each group passes out the papers at the red and yellow tables during GR time.
Together Teacher Discussion Question: What ideas do you have for promoting independence and maximizing learning time during classroom transitions?