Tip #9: Transitions: step back to get on track.

CC - Tip #9- Transitions- step back to get on track. (1)Transitions strike fear in the heart of many teachers. They hold the potential to make or break lessons and it’s all too common for them to introduce chaos and stress into the class climate (Ofsted, 2013; TALIS, 2013; Bennett, 2017). Taking a step back and watching transitions will help you to identify any emerging issues and calmly coordinate the class.

The black-hole of learning time

It’s not just stress that is created: poor transitions eat huge holes in your learning time. Let’s say that a poor transition takes 4 minutes or more. If you teach 6 lessons a day with one transition each, you potentially use 24 minutes of useful time each day.

Now, imagine you can streamline each transition to 1 minute. That’s a saving of 18 minutes a day, which equates to 90 minutes a week, or 57 hours a year. Put simply, slick transitions give you a couple of extra weeks of school time for free. Getting to the one minute mark is achievable (Doug Lemov talks about it here and this video illustrates the Michaela way), but it relies on a few simple features of effective transitions:

  • They need to be planned and prepared beforehand
  • They involve giving brief, clear instructions so everybody knows their role and your expectations
  • Pupils are given responsibility for the transition and held accountable for any transgressions.

The first 2 points I’ll discuss in future posts as they’re worth examining in detail, but perhaps the easiest to address is the latter point.

Stand and watch

How do you hold pupils accountable during transitions? You just stand and watch. You’ll notice which children get straight on with what you’ve asked and you can praise them. You’ll also see pupils avoiding work or distracting others. This presents a great opportunity to reinforce your expectations and make the pupils accountable for the loss of precious learning time. You may even want to use a consistency script such as:

‘I’ve asked you to do _____ and so far, you haven’t and that’s affecting your learning and the learning of others. You need to do _____.’

Don’t get distracted

You can’t do this if you get distracted, so don’t get sucked into conversations with pupils during transitions. If your instructions were clear, they should know what’s expected of them and they can always talk with you when everyone is settled. Finding the best place to stand and watch will also pay dividends. (I discussed this in my last post ‘Tip #8: Become a classroom-management issue sharp-shooter.’)

Doing less and watching more will make transitions happier. Being able to reinforce your expectations and learn where the flashpoints are will help you and the class understand how to make transitions better. A calmer learning environment and many hours of reclaimed learning isn’t a bad trade-off for a few moments of stationary classroom directing.


Bennett, T. (2017). Creating a Culture: How school leaders can optimise behaviour.


Ofsted, (2013). Below the radar: low-level disruption in the country’s classrooms.

TALIS. (2013). TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning.

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