Transition Activities for School-Aged Children

Student wearing backpack.
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Moving from one subject or activity to the next can make grade school students lose focus and get off track. Instead of spending your precious instructional time trying to either prep your class for a move or get back into the game, use transition activities to provide brief fillers minimizing disruptions, boredom and distraction.

1 Freeze in Motion

Children need at least 60 minutes of activity each day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Taking physical-activity breaks during instructional time can help children stay on task. Use your transition times to build physical movement into the daily schedule. Have the students shake their bodies, jump around or dance in between subjects. Call out "freeze" for everyone to stop. This gives your students a break and helps them to practice self regulation while transitioning from one activity to another.

2 Sort the Students

Whether your students are going to lunch, heading off to art class or getting ready for recess, the line-up transition is often a challenge. Instead of a race to the door, smooth this time with an engaging quick-filler activity, suggests teacher Lora Mulstay on the Scholastic Teachers website. Quick fillers are brief activities that teachers can fit in when there's a brief lull in the class or insufficient time to do a full lesson. Call students up to the line with a theme such as the alphabet or numbers. Tie this activity into your class content. For example, ask all students with "A" names to line up, then those with "B" names and so on. Another option is to call out an equation, and the first child to answer correctly gets to line up.

3 Music and Sounds

Teaching your class to hum a tune, clap to a beat or respond to a musical instrument provides an opportunity to weave some creativity into your transition times. Create your own class song with hand claps or beats on the desk that go "knock, knock, knock." The students must the answer back -- "knock, knock, knock." Use this pattern at each transition time to grab their attention, make them switch gears and have them think about a new task that is literally at hand. Another option is to strum a guitar beat or create a rhythm on a drum that the students must answer with their voices. You might hit the drum three times and have the students respond, "boom, boom, boom."

4 Recite a Poem

Pick a poem or rhyme that is simple for the students to memorize or choose two lines of one that you are working on in class. At transition times, say the first line loudly. The students must stop what they are doing, look at you and answer back with the next line in a group chorus. For example, try a well-known rhyming verse such as "Jack and Jill." You will say, "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water." The students will answer, "Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after." Change the poem during the course of the school year -- picking a new one every few weeks -- to keep the activity fresh. As you move through different language and literacy units, connect the current poem to a theme or story that you are reading in class.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.