Preschool Classroom Management - Transition Time

by Amanda
(United States)

Hello! I teach a 3-5 year old class of 20 preschoolers! It is definitely a lot of kiddos to have in one room. So in order to manage that better, we have created a centers-based learning system where we split up their free choice hour into three 20 minute sessions. I ring a windchime, they clean up their area and come back to the rug so that everyone can switch centers and gets a fair chance at the high interest/low availability areas such as computers.


My question is, how can I make these transitions smoother and faster? I'll have some children come right away but not clean their area or some that just want to continue playing and not come to the rug to change. So while we're trying to gather them all to the rug, the ones that came quickly get bored and restless and frequently wander off.

Any tips or ideas you have would be so appreciated! Thank you :)

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Classroom Behavior Management - Part 2
by: Z. Meltzer

To get you started here is an example of 5 learning centers for the theme of the beginning of the year - All About Me:

1. Compulsory Center - Self Portrait. The teacher can review the body parts, and place some mirrors for the children to see themselves before they begin drawing. Never show an example. It takes away from the creativity and imagination of the child.

2. Free Center (Listening) - Put a book on tape with 'Everyone Asked About You' or other songs relating to this theme.

3. Free Center (Pre-Math) - Manipulative dolls of boys and girls. Ask the children to create a pattern.

4. Free Center (Fine Motor) - Playdough, clay or plasticine. The children can create themselves or things that they like.

5. Free Center (Pre-Reading) - Library. Our class library changes with every theme and we encourage the children to visit it daily and 'read' the books.

Some of the things that are not open during center time are: Creative center (dolly corner), coloring (free style that is), painting (simply gets too messy), blocks, Lego and any other construction toy. We do open puzzles on the floors from time to time.

Before we begin center time we walk through all the centers with the children and tell them what each one is about. We use the words FREE and COMPULSORY and within the first month the children use them too. They will say: "I didn't go to compulsory yet."

We invite the first group of children to compulsory. Sometimes by asking who would like to begin with this centers and other times we make the decision based on the children's skill levels. (For pre-math and pre-reading we divide them by skills). After that we slowly invite a new child every time there is a free spot at this center.

Close to the end of center time we say "last call" for anyone who did not come to the center.

This is the end of center time for day one. The next day we can open the same centers but this time the compulsory center will be the math center (the pattern one) because we want to assess how many children understand this concept.

Eventually we increase the number of compulsory centers to be equal to the number of teachers in the classroom at this time and by April we are able to open an extra compulsory without a teacher there. The children tick their name off the list to show that they completed the center and place their work in the bin beside the table.

I hope this makes sense. It is actually simple when you see it in action and is more difficult to describe.

Z. Meltzer

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Classroom Behavior Management - Part 1
by: Z. Meltzer

Hi Amanda,

I LOVE your question!! Years ago when I began working as a teacher we also used a method similar to the one you are describing. We were three teachers in the classroom during what we called 'station' time. We would split the children into groups of 8 or 9 children and each teacher would be teaching that small group for about 20 minutes and then we would switch. Of course some children were able to complete the task in 10 minutes and had to wait for the rest of the kids while others did not finish their work within the time frame that was expected.

This is why this system is flawed. The truth is we are all different and we can not expect children to all complete a task at the same time.

Now, we set up the classroom with 5 learning centers. In the beginning of the year only one (or two of them at the most) is called a compulsory center. The other ones are what we call FREE centers. While all centers are related to the theme and have a developmental goal connected to them the children are expected to only complete the compulsory center within the time frame. One teacher is at the compulsory center, directing the children while a second teacher is observing the rest of the children.

Each child in the compulsory center can take as long as they need to complete the task. Of course you will have certain kids that will want to do a quick job in order to go back to free centers. I simply tell them that I know they can do better and this is not accepted work. I encourage them to give their best and if they are really unable to do that I ask them if they would like to come back in a few minutes. (I know I give my best when the work is meaningful to me other wise I also do a sloppy job. Aren't most of us like that?). As for the children that take their time and are super slow... we work on time management and getting things done at a reasonable amount of time.

As for the second teacher, the one that is observing the children and is not at a particular center. This is a great time for him/her to jot down observational anecdotes. Who is playing with whom? Which child needs help with fine motor skills? If you work with portfolios the educator can have a camera and captures some shots of the children at 'work'.

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