Transitions carry a potent latte effect, in dribs and drabs of time rather than money. How are your transitions going? This post is intended for teaching newbies, but everyone who has a job that moves rapidly from task to task can benefit from thinking of transitions as their own temporal versions of a latte.
I first heard about the latte effect from Ben Stein. The idea is straightforward. A vanilla latte can be a delicious treat, but those lattes add up. One $4.00 cup of coffee seems harmless. One month of daily $4.00 coffees adds up to $120, though. That’s not so harmless. In ten months, the lattes total $1,200 or so. That’s airfare or a nice week-end spa break.
Transitions occur when you move from one activity onto the next. Teachers tend to have a day packed with transitions at all levels. Given that students manage transitions with varying degrees of success, some planning and practice can make classroom activities go much smoother. Poorly structured transitions can lead to social chatting, silliness, and even misbehavior and disruptions.
How can you avoid these problems?
Don’t trust the little nippers to know what to do! Or the big nippers! While it’s important to show faith in your students, you may not all be on the same mission. You want to teach the Battle of Shiloh. They want to know if Jaime’s girlfriend really broke up with him, and what she said in those awful text messages.
I suggest verbal warnings combined with actual practice.
♦ Establish clear routines for transition times. Physically practice these routines at the start of year.
Yes, it’s the end of October, but some reinforcement of routines throughout the year can be helpful too, especially if routines are slipping. If your transitions are sucking up valuable classroom minutes unnecessarily, I’d practice now. Try timing transitions. This gives kids the idea that those shifts between activities are supposed to go fast.
♦ Remind students when they need to get started. In the case of an opening activity, that should be as soon as they walk in the room. Don’t let the conversations start. Standing by the door works well. Students should pick up papers to complete from a desk near the door as soon as they walk into the room.
♦ Review your lesson objectives before the lesson begins (or right after you call in or collect the opening activity) and then once more at the end of the lesson. Tell students in advance what activities are planned for period.
♦ Tell students when an activity is ending. Give them a 2 minute or a 5 minute warning.
♦ Tell them where you are going next and when. “We are going to finish plotting points in 2 minutes. You will need to get your book out so that we can look at the material on page 25.”
Two minutes here, three minutes there, three minutes an hour later, and the total minutes lost to slow transitions add up fast. I believe in explaining this to students, along with the math. Show them the minutes. Show them how quickly they can lose hours and even days. Learning various versions of the latte effect will help our students greatly as they get older and begin to buy their own lattes.