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.

A Joyful Transition

“That was fun!”, sighed a participant as she sat down after presenting her group’s diamante poem.

I heard a similar exclamation from a participant in another class. What teacher doesn’t like knowing her students enjoyed a lesson, but to have that joy exclaimed without any probing from me is a pleasant bonus. My intention was simply to help them process their transition between sessions.

After seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter, I asked why they enjoyed making their diamantes. They explained that they felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. They also loved the creative factor of putting their poems on construction paper, and then reading their colleagues’ poems during a gallery walk.

I also noticed that they had very little anxiety about explaining their poems to the other participants during the gallery walk. The fact that they were feeling positive about their experience may have influenced the lowered affective filter. This helped them jump into their impromptu presentations.

T.T refers to Team-teaching, but it suspiciously also resembles the crying emoticon

I feel satisfied that my goal was met. I helped them process their transition into a new session. Now they feel a bit more connected to their new classmates, and they also know that many of these classmates share the same fears and aspirations.  The added bonus is that this transition has now been punctuated with a little fun.

Lesson Planning Flow – Thesaurus Poetry

Sometimes lessons create themselves; they flow on your students’ creative energy. This is what happened to the following lesson sequences.

Between the first and second sessions during the fall 2010 semester, I introduced periphery verbs for the core verb, to walk. I used the visual representations found in the book Lexicarry to elicit periphery verbs such as crawl, skip, tiptoe, march, and weave, to name a few. Most of these words were new to my trainees.

I then wanted to help them understand the importance of thesaurus and English learner’s dictionary usage. I assigned each group two of the periphery words. One of the members in the group looked up the definition in the dictionary, and another found synonyms in the thesaurus. They also wrote a sentence with the initial assigned word. The next step was to replace that word with the synonym that most closely resembled the word in the sentence. Of course not all of the synonyms they found could work in the sentence they created, so they had to use the English dictionary to find the word with the closest definition. After they were done, they wrote their sentences on the board to share their work with the other groups.

We ended the class by reflecting on the benefits and shortcomings of using the thesaurus and English learner’s dictionary. One of the benefits mentioned was that by using this method, they could find the subtle meaning of the synonyms, whereas when they use an English-Korean dictionary, the meaning is not as obvious. A shortcoming was that they were not used to this type of word search, and that reading definitions in English can be tiring. They did admit that the English learner’s dictionary was much more comprehensible than typical dictionaries.   

From one session to the next (usually 6 weeks each), trainees switch homerooms, and also have to face new course challenges. As the semester progresses, so does the curriculum’s difficulty. As a way to help trainees transition into their new homerooms and session, I asked trainees to work in groups to create diamante poems. Their task was to use Session 1 and Session 2 as different points of the diamante. I also asked them to use the walking verbs learned in the previous lesson for verb line of their diamante poem. These verbs worked as metaphors for their feelings. You can see that each group had a unique take on the transition between sessions.

Then just when I thought I had exhausted all the work we could do with these words, my trainee wrote this in her dialogue journal.

Where have you gone

Im Myung Sook

With my staggering mind,
Leaving empty vessel behind,
Where have you vanished?
With my confidence:
My self-confidence
Trudging across the field,
I followed you with vanished mind,
Stumbled constantly,
Twisted an ankle and a hand,
Walked on knees and a hand
To find you
While you racing,
I toddled and paced.
With your confident walk
where have you gone,

She was inspired by the poem below. Reading this poem was a powerful learning moment for me. It reminded me of the importance of making language your own. By playing with language in a way that you enjoy, you are more apt to internalize and use it. I am grateful to my trainee, Im Myung Sook, for allowing me to post her poem. It was a great joy to read it and share it with you.

As you can imagine I received a lot of satisfaction with the lessons around these “walking” periphery verbs. When a lesson goes beyond your expectations, it is extremely rewarding. I look forward to teaching these lessons again.


Where have you gone

Mari Evans

With your confident
walk with
your crooked smile
Why did you leave me
when you took your
laughter and departed
are you aware that
with you went the sun
all light
and what few stars
there were?
Where have you gone
with your confident
walk your
crooked smile the
rent money
in one pocket and
my heart in another…

KIETT – Session 1, Spring 2010

Practices in Teaching

Learning About Objectives - Practices in Teaching
SMART Objectives

Writing Skills

Sentence Puzzle
Transition Word Comic Book Stories
Sentence Variety Sleuths
Finding Clues
Solving the Mystery
Transition Word Detectives

Diamante Closure

Summer here we come!

Waiting for Summer