During transitions, it’s common to focus on moving your students from one thing to the next as quickly and painlessly as possible.
But in doing so, you pass up an opportunity to ensure that that next thing goes according to plan.
You pass up a key determiner of attentiveness.
You pass up a way to improve both behavior and motivation.
It’s a strategy that takes just a couple of minutes. But the difference can be monumental.
Like having a whole new class.
The way it works is that just before giving your signal to transition, you’re going to preview the next lesson or activity. You’re going to describe for your students exactly what to expect.
To be most effective, include these three details:
1. How long it will take.
“After you put away your math materials, and for the next 30 minutes, we’re going to learn more about some of the people who found themselves caught up in the Civil War.”
2. What you will be doing.
“I’m going to be telling you an amazing story about a thirteen-year-old boy that you’re not going to believe.”
3. What they will be doing.
“After the story, you’re going to meet with your group to discuss how you felt about it and whether it changed your perspective on the war.”
As you can see, the strategy is really simple.
But very few teachers do it. Very few teachers keep their students informed about what’s coming next.
And why is this important?
Because when your students know what to expect, they’re able to relax, live in the moment, and focus on whatever you lay out before them.
It removes anxiety over the unknown. It provides an outline for them to follow and prompts a visualization of themselves doing it—and succeeding.
And when you use the preview to sell what it is you have to teach them (#2), it can also be highly motivational.
It’s such a wee little thing, but a short, two-minute preview can get your students through the dog-day afternoons.
It can help make your lessons something they look forward to.
When students don’t know what to expect, on the other hand, when you dive straightaway into your lessons, they become antsy and excitable. They look at the clock, sigh, and wonder how long you’re going to talk.
They start engaging in misbehavior.
It’s important to note that the preview is not part of your actual lesson, which comes after you transition.
It’s merely a means to prepare your students for success and right behavior. It gives them a motivational seed to take with them into the transition and beyond.
It comforts. It focuses. It builds anticipation.
It opens the door to a class that is ready to learn.
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