Good Times: Productive Transition Times in the Classroom



Do you need more time in your classroom? Do transitions kill your flow? Want to show your students that every minute counts and have fun while doing it? I have my students all day, besides lunch, recess and an encore class. I love getting to know them so well but sometimes, you just need something to break up the day. Enter- transition songs!

If you walk into my classroom at 8:25, our discussion leader will be finishing up the daily discussion question. All of a sudden a student will stand up and say, “Give me five, it’s time for writing.” Then you will hear… [to the tune of One Call Away]

I will write when I need to vent
I just want to share my thoughts
Come on, come on, come on
Share my mind with my audience
No matter where I go
Ideas will always flow
I’m only one word away
I could write and write all day
Maybe then you’ll see what I mean
I’m only one word away

As the students sing, they grab their materials out of their desks, walk to their book bins, find their groups and get ready for writing. Meanwhile, I also grab my materials and switch the objective on Prezi. By the time that short song is over they’re looking at me, ready for the mini-lesson.


Come 9:15, a student will pop up and say, “Give me five, it’s time for reading.” And then you will hear our reading chat. You’ll have to come visit my class to hear this one.

Later in the day, the students arrive back from recess. That can be a disastrous time, right? WRONG! My fifth graders turn the corner into the classroom and you’ll hear… [to the tune of Monster]

Word time!
This is my word, this is my word.
Working in our notebooks.
Word time!
Find the meaning, in the word’s clues.
Working with our folders.
Word time- Grammar, vocab.
Word time, this is my word.
This is my word. Working with great urgency!
Word time!

Then you’ll see busy workers in their groups completing their spelling, grammar or vocabulary work for the day. When the clock strikes 12:50 you’ll see another student pop up, “Give me five, it’s time for pack up.” Pack up? Seriously? You actually have a song for that? YES! Pack up has such potential to go awry. But it just doesn’t because of the transition song. One student calls binders while the others grab their binders, get their mail and homework and put all of that in their bags to go home. All of the students are back in line to head to the bathroom in less than two minutes. SUCCESS! You’ll hear… [to the tune of Turn Down for What]

Pack up for what
Put your papers
In your binder
Put your binder
In your backpack
Put your backpack
In the closet
[Silence- Count to three with your fingers in the air]

Fast forward and we’re back after a quick bathroom break. The students turn the corner from the hallway and head into the room for math. You’ll hear… [to the tune of Bad Blood]

It’s time for math class
We’re multiplying, dividing
Adding and subtracting
You gotta know where the decimals GO!
Now we got word problems
And you know we can solve them
Gotta use your strategies
Math class starts NOW!

When the song is over you’ll see the students’ math binders opened on their desks and all of the students will be gathered on the floor discussing what we did yesterday in math before the lesson begins. Yes, we also have a chant for social studies and science, too.

Starting Transition Songs

So, how do you start transition songs in your class? Every year I create the first chant and teach it early on, although, it’s never too late to start now. I type it up, sing it to the class and then send it home. The next day I expect the class to use it. Does every student have it memorized yet? No. Some of them go home and forget the tune. That’s okay. Enough of the class has it memorized the next day. Since the students sing the song every day, it doesn’t take more than a week for the whole class to have it, even if they aren’t practicing at home.

Then, there’s always that first day in the fall when I have training and need a substitute. So, for writing, I tell my class ahead of time that I’m going to give them a challenge. They are to come up with transition songs for the rest of the subjects. When I get back, we’ll have a sing-off and the class will vote on their favorite songs for each subject. It’s a win-win. Now, writing time will be super productive while I’m gone and the students will have new transition songs. They love this! My only regret is I never get to watch the process of how they create their songs. Also, as a word of caution, the students do not need to listen to the original songs/lyrics to complete this task. I don’t open that can of worms.

When I come back, we have the sing-off which is simply the best. If you are at all skeptical about the quality of the songs your class will produce, don’t be. Every year I’m amazed at how much better the songs are than I ever could have imagined. Once the songs are chosen, I type them up, send them home to practice (best homework ever) and they begin using them. Transitions are truly a good time in our room!

Benefits of Transition Songs

• They are student-led, quick and fun brain breaks.
• They are a designated time to get materials out quickly.
• The songs incorporate kinesthetic movement and are a chance for students to be loud in a productive way. It’s not uncommon for my kids to clap, drum, use rain sticks and dance during the songs.
• I can get the pulse of the room. Is it Monday morning and the song sounds more like nails on the chalkboard than a song? I can instantly tell the kids are tired. I address it immediately while they’re singing and the whole tone of the day changes.
• I learn the type of music my students enjoy early on in the year. Some songs are country, others are rap and pop. I can capitalize on this knowledge and use it in other areas of my instruction.
• It lets my musically inclined students shine. This is important for me because I find out who can sing and carry a tune. I’ll need their help throughout the year because I do a lot with songs… and let’s just say there’s a reason I’m not a chorus teacher.
• The students whose songs are chosen grin ear to ear with pride during their songs…even in June.
• The winning songs, surprisingly, never seem to come from the same groups.
• The songs help build relationships. We all know our songs but no one else does.
• It puts everyone in a good mood. Did a lesson just flop? Did someone just make a bad choice? As soon as you hear those angelic voices, you can’t help but smile and regroup for the next lesson!

Happy Transitioning!




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