Moving from Activity to Activity
Learning to move smoothly from one activity to another is an essential teaching skill. In elementary school classrooms, multiple activities fill each day. Most teachers will post a schedule showing students when they will move from one activity to the next. For example, an elementary activity schedule might contain the following:
8:30–8:55 — Student Warm-Up/Journal Writing
8:55–9:55 — Reading
10:00–10:45 — Specials
10:50–12:20 — Math
12:25–1:00 — Lunch
1:05–1:55 — Writing
2:00–2:30 — Independent Reading/Projects
2:35–3:05 — Social Studies/Science (Mon.–Thurs.)
2:35–3:05 — Recess (Fri.)
3:10 — Cleanup and Review
3:20 — Dismissal
However, even though they might be with students for shorter periods of time, most middle and high school teachers will also find that they have students complete multiple tasks each day. For example, let's say you have the following tasks planned for a single high school class period:
Students complete a warm-up while you take roll (three minutes).
You review the previous day's lesson (three minutes).
Students take a five-question quiz about their reading from the night before (eight minutes).
You hold a whole-group discussion about the reading from the night before (10 minutes).
You break the class up into small groups and assign them each a character from the reading for whom they are to write a brief biography (20 minutes).
You get the class back together, spend time reviewing, and assign homework before dismissal (six minutes).
As you look through this list of activities, you will see that there are many transitions between one activity and another. Your goal is to make these transitions seamless, wasting as little time as possible. The first step toward this goal is getting organized.
Organization can seem difficult at first because it requires some discipline on your part. However, if you are not organized, you will waste time looking for items or determining what's next in your lesson. For example, if you are giving a quiz and you don't have them easily accessible, then your students will probably get off-task as you look for them.
You should teach students that at the end of assignments and tests they complete in class, they are always to pass their papers to the front so you can collect them. Think in terms of efficiency for yourself and your students.
You can also make transitions easier by guiding students and practicing them early in the year. This is especially true in elementary classrooms. Reinforce the transitions from one subject to another each day until students have it down. For example, if they are to always put their math books on the shelf at the end of the math lesson and then move to the reading circle, make a big deal about this each day until students know exactly what is expected of them. Your goal is to have a quiet and quick transition in order to keep talking and distractions down to a minimum.