Reducing Time Spent in Transition
What is a Transition?
PRI observers code “transition” time when the break in activity lasts longer than 1 minute and involves at least 75% of the children. Common types of transitions include:
- Breaks when one activity has ended but another has not yet begun
- Times that children are moving to a new location (i.e., going outside, lining up for restroom breaks)
- Times that children cannot begin an activity because they are awaiting instructions or materials
- Interruptions of activities that result from teachers gathering materials or correcting behavior
Benefits of Reduced Transition Time
Think of the time spent in a classroom as a pie chart in which every moment is accounted for. If a large “slice” of the day is spent in transitions, there is less time for other important classroom activities. Some amount of transition time during the day is both normal and necessary–the goal in reducing transitions should be to a) decrease the overall “wait time” between activities and b) incorporate engaging instructional content during transitions whenever possible. The charts below show how time was spent across the day in all ELC Classrooms (N=26), including how much time was spent in Transitions for the first and second years of the partnership.
In the second year, time in transitions was reduced. By decreasing the amount of time children spend without an available learning opportunity, teachers increased the amount of time available for instruction. Analyses from the first two years of the PRI-MNPS Partnership showed a strong relationship between time spent in instructional activities and children’s achievement gains. The table below shows the percentage of time teachers increased time in instruction across the day in all ELC Classrooms (N=26) when transition time was reduced. The decrease in time spent in transitions from Year 1 to Year 2 allowed for an increase in the amount of instruction across the two years. The Min and Max columns demonstrate the difference among the teachers in creating instructional time.
Strategies for Minimizing Transition Time
Less time in transitions was observed in classrooms where students have internalized the “flow” of the day—this can be accomplished by taking time at the beginning of the school year to establish expectations for moving from one activity to another. Intentional planning of these sorts of transitions between the educational assistant and teacher allows the creation of strategies to accommodate the classroom schedule and the needs of the children. The Responsive Classroom has an excellent article on teaching transitions and routines.
See Transitions Tips and Tricks for ideas on how to create smooth transitions, how to support children in making transitions, and suggestions for embeding instructional content during transitions.
This handout provides concrete strategies for how to help children navigate transitions. These handouts are designed for parents to use with children at home, but these strategies can easily be applied in classroom environments as well.