Classroom Transition Strategies for Guided Reading - Guided Readers

Classroom Transition Strategies for Guided Reading

Hey teacher peeps! Time to address the elephant in the room of Guided Reading–or more appropriately, the ants. Do your whole class to small group transition times resemble the process of kicking an ant hill and watching them scatter? Do you secretly wish you could just leave students where they are and not “disturb the mound”? Let’s discuss some classroom transition strategies that can help you corral those kiddos and get them moving smoothly from one activity to the next.

1. Classroom Transition Strategy Numero Uno is CONSISTENCY

Consistency is one of the most important things that you as a teacher can do to ensure that your classroom runs like a well-oiled machine. I preach it all the time, and you may be tired of hearing the word; but it’s a proven strategy that worked wonders in my classroom. When you begin the year by introducing organized, predictable, consistent routines for classroom transitions, your students will know what’s expected of them and your transitions will run smoothly.

There are three steps to achieving the goal of smoothness and consistency in classroom transitions:
  • Establish clear guidelines and expectations for your students.
  • Model the expectations.
  • Explicitly teach how to meet the expectations.

Incorporate those basics, and you’re well on the way to reaching the blissfully dreamy goal of smooth-as-silk transitions.

2. Establish Clear Signals and Concrete Rules

But enough about bliss and dreams and smooth-as-silkiness. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Your students need clear signals: both literally and figuratively! There are all sorts of options you can use to signal a transition during the school day: hand signals, bells, music, signal words, rhythmic clapping, and call & response, to name just a few.

It’s also important to give your kiddos an advance warning or heads-up prior to the actual transition. You might display a digital timer or countdown on your interactive whiteboard (check-out the egg timer at

Whatever signals you choose, remember that consistency and routine are your keys to success. Display schedules clearly, and establish clear signals for getting your students’ attention, calling for quiet, and starting or ending literacy center rotations. Keep it basic, or have fun and get creative. Whatever route you go, just make sure the same signals are used consistently and that students recognize them and understand their meaning.

3. Chat About It: Compare, Contrast and Communicate

Establish transition signals and rotation expectations very early in the school year, and make it a whole-class process. Involve students in a discussion ofboth positive and negative behaviors that might take place during transitions. Discuss how these behaviors might affect students, and show how learning can be hindered by interruptions or delays. Remember: you’re building a learning community within your classroom, and it’s important to allow each child to feel as if they’ve taken part in the formation of that community. Allow your kiddos to take part in a back-and-forth conversational exchange to establish behavioral expectations and rules. When students are part of the conversation, they’re more inclined to take ownership of the expectations.

Crystallize Ideas with an iChart

During your discussion, create an iChart to gather, record and organize students’ thoughts and establish ground rules. Guide your students as they share their ideas. Be sure to use positive language as you compile the chart. Focus on student work, behavior and caring for classroom materials and resources.

Your iChart will serve as an important reminder and reinforcement. Refer to it often, especially during the first few weeks of literacy rotations.

4. Communicate Classroom Transition Strategies with Clarity, Mixed with a Dash of Comedy!

It’s true–comedy is your friend when teaching and modeling classroom transition strategies! Although your discussion of classroom behavior is serious business, you can lighten it a little with some comic relief. Devote time to explicitly teach and model your expectations with regard to class rules that have been established.

Compare & Contrast

Have students model each statement listed on the ichart; then lead students in a discussion of what each action should look like, as well as what it should not look like. Allow students to have some fun as they dramatize behaviors; but make sure they understand that negative behaviors are taken seriously and will result in real consequences.

5. Check Their Understanding: Allow Students to Practice Your Classroom Transition Strategy–Then Celebrate Their Success!

It’s important to give students the opportunity to practice traveling through the classroom during literacy rotations. Make your instructions very explicit, and include instructions on how to access materials they’ll need at each station. Make sure students understand that this is not the time to gather in groups or chat. Explain the rewards of moving smoothly, calmly and quietly to their assigned stations. After this test run, gather the students for a review. Celebrate what went right, and do another quick read of the rules and objectives. Remind them that practice makes perfect!

Effective Classroom Transition Strategies Help Calm the Chaos

To calm classroom chaos and avoid stepping on ant hills, I hope you’ll plan to implement a few of these simple but effective strategies! You’ll soon have those adorable little ants marching smoothly from mound to mound (or from literacy center to literacy center). 😉

My professional development workshop, Guided Reading That Works, is your step-by-step framework for making Guided Reading groups run more smoothly and effectively than ever before. It is possible to find a rhythm that works for your Guided Reading Groups! Set yourself up for a stellar school year with a step-by-step framework for nailing your guided reading groups and help your students thrive!

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Guided Readers is my brand new comprehensive online Guided Reading program that provides hundreds of leveled Guided Reading texts, rigorous lesson plans, and word work instruction, based on best practices in literacy instruction. The Digital Interactive Reader will also provide your students with oral comprehension, decoding, and fluency practice.

Guided Readers will give you access to amazing lesson plans along with professionally illustrated printable & digital books and instructional materials. There are 3 affordable program plans for Guided Readers, and right now they’re at special introductory prices! Click here for a video introduction to Guided Readers!

Happy Teaching!

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