Eight weeks into the school year, my kindergarten students are finally responding well to transition time between activities. Eight years into teaching, I have finally realized that transition time can still be a teachable time. For so long, I have often compared transition time in kindergarten to something like trying to change the laundry on spin cycle. In the past, when I have asked students to stop what they are doing and have expected them to move on to the next stage of the day, I found myself grasping into thin air to retrieve one of many tools that don't really do any good. I have tried positive praising of other students near students who are transition time wasters. I have threatened with "The Great Count Down", "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" and still the same offenders were wasting time. I handed out stickers to those who obeyed and still the offenders would be anywhere except where they were supposed to be and still wasting teaching times.
Instead of losing valuable teaching time trying to lasso the wandering ones, I move immediately to where I expect my students to move to in the classroom. I have our classroom puppet, "Mr. Harry" begin to show the students who are listening something really interesting that is related to what we have learned about so far. The puppet has a really large mouth which is great for holding and hiding things. I pretend that he is telling me he has something he wants to show me and I begin talking with him about what it could be that he wants to show me. This is a great reward to those who follow my directions immediately. They get to see "the whole show". Those who have been anywhere except where they were supposed to are often drawn right over to the area I want them in by the interest we are showing the puppet. I then have the puppet reveal what he wanted to show us and I begin allowing students to ask a few questions. Before you know it, all the students are seated in a new setting and ready to hear about the next thing I want to teach them about. This has begun to work really well. Those students who are wandering about have learned that if they do not change venues when asked to the first time, they will in turn, miss out on something really special that "Mr. Harry" has to share. It has been working extremely well and we now often have enough free time left at the end of the day to incorporate a "Free Choice" activity for students.