How Do You Create Smoother Transitions?

Transitions can create cohesive compositions, but transitions can also create cohesive groups. If teachers provide the right context, transitions into new situations or environments can be smooth, and can even help create strong connections between new group members (classmates).

One of my goals for the first session (total of 5 weeks) of our three session program is to help participants understand the basic construction of a paragraph. One of the elements we look at is how to create cohesion. However, what the participants may not notice is that through the process of learning how to write a cohesive paragraph, they are also becoming a cohesive group of learners. Through collaboration and shared understanding, a natural camaraderie develops during that first session.

So how does such a close-knit group feel when they find out that for the second session they will need to separate into new groups? As I discovered during this first session’s closure class, the participants felt scared, worried, apprehensive, and sad. I witnessed more tears than I expected on that last day. They didn’t want to leave the comfort and familiarity.

To support a transition from tears to smiles, the context I provide includes creating metaphors and diamante poetry. In the photo gallery below, you’ll see this context in process. Just click on each picture to get a closer view.

The transition process begins with groups searching for new walking, running and jumping synonyms. Then, using these words, they write individual metaphors, and share them with their partners, explaining why they chose the words they did. It’s at this point that they begin to notice others share similar feelings about both sessions. The whole process finally ends with them writing a group diamante. By this point, they realize that they may just get along with these folks too. With all this, the transition process has taken a softer step forward.

I’d love to know what you do to help your students or course participants transition. How do you support them in their transition from not being a student to now being one? What do you do to help them transition between semesters? Do you have a special routine to help students reconnect after Christmas, Thanksgiving, or spring breaks?

Now please enjoy the gallery walk!

* Previous posts about transitioning: In the post Lesson Planning Flow – Thesaurus Poetry, I write about the language (walking, running, jumping periphery verbs) participants generate in order to create both their metaphors, and their diamantes. In A Joyful Transition, I share the positive experience that past participants felt after they collaborated in writing group diamantes.

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7 thoughts on “How Do You Create Smoother Transitions?

  1. Josette, This entry has good timing for me. Well, OK, I really could have read it last week and incorporated what I learned into this week’s adventure. But, now I’ve “had the experience,” have been reflecting on it—describing and analyzing and on to generalizing (and a bit of relief, it’s not all this course, these students, my teaching) with the help of your experience. And to turn the circle full now have an action plan. The next time I go from one phase of a course to the next, I will incorporate a transition activity. Thank you!

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  2. Thanks for noticing my absence and missing me! And for your kind words!
    I believe listing the feelings publicly made them acceptable, normal feelings. Because of that, the children felt less need to verbalize, or even to prove, their feelings when the change came. They felt free to say, “I’m not liking this, just as teacher said. She also said smiling would help.”
    I don’t know if they actualize this or merely adopt a “knowing” that calmness is required, but either good intentions or good habits can make the difference, right?

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  3. Hi, Josette!
    I have missed you while I was away, but this was one of my favorite topics, a great way to get back with you. :-)
    Of course, since I worked with children, my methods would vary from someone like you, but maybe some of it is good for anyone. (I used this plan at least twice per year, for the daylight time changes we suffer.)
    1. I tried to begin transitions with a yearly plan we all knew in advance was THE PLAN for any changes, whether we knew of any yet, or not. It was a bit like a fire drill in that although change might be unexpected, we all knew what to do.
    2. I tried to announce any changes prior to time for the change, and discuss the feelings I thought they would have, and invite them to share honestly any other feelings they had. Usually I listed it for them on the board.
    3. I tried to schedule the change to take place in small increments–for instance, with your groups, I would merely announce who the new groups would include–to give them time to think about the actualities.
    4. I tried to introduce the actual change also in bits, such as allowing them to meet in their new groups for the last five minutes of class, in your case, to face the facts, briefly.
    5. I tried to push the exposure times gradually to include more of their time until it seemed natural to them, and make the assignments easy and fun, at first, such as playing a game together for 15 minutes, or reading to each other for 20 minutes. (The old group was for work, the new group for play.)
    6. I tried to leave core assignments for later, after they were accustomed to each other.

    This plan had benefits, even when we could not afford the luxury of using it. For instance, once we unexpectedly had to combine two classes that never interrelated much. I announced the transition and told my class the others would not know our method of transition, so mine must be leaders in making a smooth change. To my delight, they did just that. They shook hands with what might have been rival students, offered small tokens of acceptance, such as the gift of an unused pencil or paper airplane, and generally felt the importance of keeping a distance until some familiarity happened for the others.

    Can I say I was proud? I was, of them.

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    1. Katharine, it’s great to hear from you again! I must admit, I noticed your absence, and missed your input :)

      You have truly given us a lot to think about. I appreciated how you laid out the transitioning steps. You clearly have a great deal of insight into the importance of this inevitable classroom moment.

      It was hard for me to choose a favorite point, but this really stuck out: “I tried to announce any changes prior to time for the change, and discuss the feelings I thought they would have, and invite them to share honestly any other feelings they had. Usually I listed it for them on the board.” By putting the feelings on the board, I sense that it made the experience more tangible. They could more easily understand that the moment would come, and that others felt similarly, or different. Noticing reciprocity and differences can help students open up to the wide range of emotions people go through during a moment of change. Definitely an important lesson to learn once we move on in this unpredictable world.

      “I announced the transition and told my class the others would not know our method of transition, so mine must be leaders in making a smooth change.” What a great idea under these circumstances! Your students displayed maturity, no doubt supported by your careful attention to creating a supportive atmosphere.

      I also want to thank you for sharing the pride you felt towards your students. Although pride is a feeling I like to keep in check, it is also feeling I can’t deny — and don’t want to deny — when it comes to seeing my students achieve a learning moment they/we strove for. I always welcome a celebration on this blog :) Looking forward to sharing more with you!

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