Anyone who has taught kids knows how hard it can be to help them transition to a time of learning. Whether they’re returning from recess or PE, bouncing after a rowdy worship session, or just plain excited because it’s snowing outside, kids sometimes need help settling down!
About 10 years ago, I had a class of ALL boys…the energy level was high almost all of the time, and transitions were particularly difficult. This was a self-contained class for kids with special needs, and at least half of my students struggled with maintaining attention. I often felt that I spent the majority of the day directing them (okay, nagging and pleading…) to settle down so that we could get some work done. I used to periodically tape-record our class so I could listen to my interactions with the kids and analyze my teaching.** When I listened to those tapes, I was appalled at how much “nagging” I was doing. No wonder the boys were tuning me out!
During that same year, I became interested in football. The Washington Redskins were doing quite well, and I got caught up in the excitement. My husband and I, along with our friends, spent Sunday afternoons in front of the TV during game time. I didn’t know a lot about football, so I spent a good deal of time whispering, “What’s that signal for?” or “Why did the ref do that?” My newfound love of football gave me the opportunity to bond with the boys in my classroom, too, as most of them were fans. Many of our math problems and bonus spelling words revolved around the Redskins that year!
I wondered if, somehow, football might be able to help us with our transition problems. As football season continued, I had become quite savvy with the football signals, and took great pride in learning the meaning of even the most obscure motions. One day after the boys returned from recess in super-high-energy mode, I decided to give it a try. Instead of nagging or yelling for them to sit down, I stood silently at the front of the room and began going through some of the football signals. One by one, they noticed what I was doing and began piping up, “Safety! Holding! Touchdown!” This activity became a great transition tool. The students learned that when I started doing football signals, I needed their attention: eyes up front, bodies seated and ready to learn. For this group of kids, it was effective–and fun! (much better than nagging…)
Tell me what transition strategies work for your class!
** If you plan to tape record a class you are teaching, please consult with your organization’s legal or leadership team to be certain that you are following policies that are respectful, with the primary goal of protecting students.