This blog was originally published September 26, 2017.
Routines and transitions are an important part of any classroom setting. At the beginning of the year, give children "the big picture" by taking a tour of the room. Introduce them to their "home" seat at a table and to the different areas of the classroom. Play a game that involves coming to the meeting area, sitting on the rug, and going quickly and quietly back to the home seat. You will not use all the centers (even the major ones) right away. Begin with large-group experiences and introduce materials and work areas one at a time. Your goal is self-initiated movement so children develop and practice self-regulation as they transition from one center to the next. You may find it helpful to use these steps:
- Talk about and demonstrate the routine yourself.
- Have one or two children demonstrate and affirm their efforts. If necessary, repeat this process with more students.
- If everyone can use a center simultaneously (for example, the classroom library) have all students at once demonstrate the routine. For example, browsing boxes might mean reading three books; listening center may mean listen to one book and write or draw about it in your reader's notebook; poetry notebook might mean read the poem, glue it in your poetry notebook, illustrate it, and read it to a partner. Post directions for the students at each location for their reference. Watch and describe what they are doing to affirm their efforts. If the center is small, have each small group start working there and observe them closely affirming their efforts the first time. Teach them how to transition to the next center.
- Introduce the basic centers first - the ones you will be using almost every day.
- Observe children in the center until you are comfortable that they are consistently using the area independently and are being respectful of others and of the materials. (This may take only a short time.) If some children are inexperienced or find self-regulation challenging, reteach. Children will soon learn to help each other achieve self-regulation.
- Build in extra support for students who find it difficult to work independently (for example, a check-in between groups).
- Then work on helping students learn how to clean up and organize the materials at the center before transitioning or moving on to the next center. Demonstrate explicitly or have a few students demonstrate for the class what is needed for each type of center.
- Encourage children to self-evaluate and problem-solve at the end of the independent work period.
Every time you introduce a new task, or if you decide to change the task in a center, help children make the transition. Again, demonstrate and have children act out the change. Don't assume that telling is enough. After a time, children learn how to make such transitions and they will take on new tasks more quickly and with independence so you can maximize time spent teaching and work with guided reading groups without interruption.
~The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Team