Why some children find transitions tricky!

Some children, especially those with a SEND can find transitions between one activity and another stressful. They may even find it difficult to cope with going from one room to another. Even though you as a teacher might feel that it’s obvious that a task is coming to an end, or think that the class should know that you do P.E. at the this time on a Friday afternoon, the anxiety that comes with starting something new can trigger difficult behaviours. A lot of questions come to a child’s mind when someone asks them to stop doing something or to move somewhere else, ‘what will the teacher ask me to do?’, ‘is the next task tricky?’, ‘what is going to happen once we get there’, ‘will I be allowed to stand next to Oliver?’.

Some children will try and distract me from what I’m about to ask them do by moving around the room and being disruptive. They might call out at the beginning of the teacher input to ask lots of questions.

Children need sonething familiar to anchor to so they feel safe and secure. This can be an activity or game that is scheduled between activities or a procedure for moving between classrooms or activities. I’ve tried a few different ideas to help children cope with transitions and thought I would share these with you:

How to transition from outside to inside

· I always try and establish calm before the children come inside. I’ll line the children up away from the door and send them to the door in groups, not all at once. I remind children of what I’m looking for, before we move inside such as ‘quiet voices, still bodies’ etc.

· There needs to be some bridge between the excitement and physical hysteria of playtime and the sedentary activity of classroom-based learning. At each child’s table I put some playdough and on the board, I put an image of an animal. As soon as they come in and before introducing the actual learning, they are given 3 minutes to try and make the animal on the board out of the playdough.

· Transition toy – If children has a familiar toy such as a teddy or a fidget toy, this helps children go from one location to another with some sense of security.

How to transition between learning activities

· Now and Next boards – you can use a laminated board, or a whiteboard and simply draw a symbol for each activity which the child can cross out as they go along. Or you can make the boards with Velcro’d symbols which the child can put on and pull off. It is important for the child to do this so that they feel they have some control over the beginning and end of their learning.

· Timer – You’ll always find me calling out ‘you have 5 minutes left’ or ‘there’s just 1 more minute before the next activity’. I’ll often put a timer on the board or a sand timer on an individual child’s table. This helps to visually reinforce when an activity is going to come to an end.

· Songs – this works best for younger year groups, but there are lots that you can implement at the end of an activity. In early years, the Clean Up song is very popular and signals clearing up and putting something to an end.

· Mirror Me – I like to make this fun and challenging so that the children feel like they are competing against me. I do an action and the children mirror the action with their bodies. When they all do it, they get a point, and if a child isn’t watching or doesn’t copy the action, then I get a point. This activity takes the children’s focus away from the last activity and they tune back into the teacher.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will help the tension that comes with transition from one location to another or from one activity to another. How do you help children cope with transitions? Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below.

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