5.2 Managing Classroom Procedures through Transitions. To me, this standard reflects the importance of making sure that transition times are clearly displayed so that transition times move fluidly without loss of instruction time. For example, in the elementary grades, teachers often display a daily schedule on the wall or white board for students to refer to through out the day. In middle and high school classes where students may only be in a classroom for 1 period per day, teachers may post the schedule on the overhead projector and read the daily expectations aloud to the class. During my internship, my mentor teacher was in an accident and I became his full time substitute for four months. I had been co-teaching for a short period of time before I was completely on my own. I was teaching in an 18-21 transition classroom where students moved in and out of the classroom throughout the day, at varying times. As far as I could tell, there was not a set schedule for teaching curriculum. My mentor teacher is a seasoned teacher who is great at planning that days activities, the morning of. As a novice teacher, I need a clear expectations and a well planned out schedule.
About 3 weeks into my solo teaching, many of my students behaviors became undesirable. I found that some were having a hard time focusing, there was bullying within the classroom and some were throwing tantrums. I could not figure out what the trigger was to this new set of behaviors. I did some research and came across and article about classroom transitions for students with disabilities. According to Pierce, Spriggs, Gast, and Luscre (2013), students with Autism typically have difficulty following verbal directions alone due to their communicative deficits. Visual cues offer non-intrusive prompts for smooth transitions, often increasing activity engagement, decreasing aberrant behaviors. Research also supports visual activity schedule use with students with intellectual disabilities and with students with learning disabilities. This made perfect sense in relation to my problem. Our transitions from one activity to another were erratic and inconsistent. I instantly realized that I was not meeting my students unique needs. I decided to make a day by day, well planned out schedule. As we do not use a specific curriculum in our transition classroom, I made a list of all the topics that I felt were important for my students to learn in our vocational program. I paired up the topics and made a master schedule. The times were the same for each day, only the subject matter changed. To best support my visual learners, I then posted our schedule on our white board in large print. Each morning, before my students arrive, I change the subject matter to reflect the activities for that day.
After just one week, both myself and my classroom paraeducators noticed a vast improvement in our student’s behaviors. They not only appreciated the new schedule but they lived by it. If I went even one minute over a transition time, hands flew into the air. Even now, months later, they alert me to an upcoming transition. They take pride in following the schedule and keeping track of time. I also noticed that not only did the behaviors improve, but some of my students exhibited less anxiety. This realization made me understand the importance of a well planned out schedule and how inconsistency can truly hinder some students ability to learn. Through this experience I learned that I need to pay close attention to any changes in behavior because it may be the only way some students know how to communicate effectively. If a student’s behavior begins to noticeably change, it is my job as their teacher to investigate what might be causing the change. I am so thankful that I was able to problem solve an effective way to manage classroom behaviors. When my mentor teacher returned to work, he was so impressed with how smoothly our students moved from one activity to another, he decided to continue using my schedule.
Next year, I will be teaching 1st and 2nd grade extended resource room. As I now understand the importance smooth transitions and how they can positively effect a students ability to learn, I know it will be very important for me to develop ways to implement a schedule into my elementary classroom. I know that many of my future students will not be able to read so I am looking forward to developing methods of using pictorial visual aids to represent transition times. I am also looking forward to integrating telling time lessons into my lesson plans and correlating it with our displayed transition times.
Pierce, J. M., Spriggs, A. D., Gast, D. L., & Luscre, D. (2013). Effects of visual activity schedules on independent classroom transitions for students with autism. International Journal Of Disability, Development & Education, 60(3), 253-269. doi:10.1080/1034912X.2013.812191