Filling Transitional Time in the Elementary Classroom: Tips and Tricks for the Well-Prepared Teacher

For many teachers, filling transitional time in the classroom is a dreaded daily nightmare. Whether it’s the last 10 minutes before the bell rings or the post-recess chaos, these in-between times are when disruptive behavior is most likely to emerge. With the following tips and tricks, you can find out how to make these transitional times  easier than you thought possible.

Sing It out


Kids love to dance and sing. And with tracks tailored just for filling classroom transitions, such as Backpack Boogie and Let’s Go out to the Playground, you can make this love for music a cue that prompts disruption-free transition. For example, if you finish your lesson but still have 10 minutes to fill before the end of the day, you can turn on the Backpack Boogie song. With a fun beat and lyrics like “get your backpack and clean out your desk…throw all the trash away and take home your best,” this track will get kids grooving and moving in no time.

Active Listening Signals


Some teachers prefer to give kids free time rather than trying to come up with activities to fill in the gap. The only problem with this method is that sometimes it can be hard for the teacher to regain control of the classroom when free time is up. To take back the reins as smoothly as possible, try introducing an active listening signal. Different signals work better for different teachers, but here are a few of the most popular:

  • Post-Its: When free time is up, grab a Post-It and write a note with your next instruction. Give the note to the closest child, and whisper that they have to read it and pass it on.
  • Thumbs-Up: When you want silence, put both thumbs up. When your students see your thumbs up, they must take their seats and be quiet.
  • Secret Word: At the beginning of each week, write a secret word on the board and explain to your kids that when they hear this word, it’s time to listen. The sillier the word, the more effective this method will be.

Structured Play


If you prefer to keep your students busy with a structured activity during transitional time, try introducing a toy that doubles as a group learning tool. Smart toys like the CogniToys Dino can play games, answer questions, and even teach calming meditation. To make this time more relaxing and engaging, let kids get up from their desks and move over to your storytime or play corner.


Free Choice Activity Stations


Setting up activity stations keeps kids busy while giving them some downtime from traditional lesson structure. These stations can involve anything from easy craft projects to sensory challenges. To maintain a sense of organization during these activities, set a time limit per station and shake a tambourine or bell when it’s time to switch.

By adding one or more of these methods to your classroom routine, you’ll be prepared for everything from rainy day recesses to early dismissal days. Do you have a favorite transitional time tool, but don’t see it mentioned here? Let us know at, or leave a comment below.


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