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Helping Pre-Kindergartners Adjust to Transitions

written by: Kara Bietz • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 2/25/2015

Say goodbye to harrowing transition time experiences! Use these tips, tricks, and techniques to get your pre-K class moving to centers without difficulty. Soon, transition tears will be a thing of the past.

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    The Importance of Transitions

    Transition times are often the most challenging part of teaching pre-kindergarten. To move to centers, there must be a plan in place to No More Tears keep the order you have worked so hard to create in your classroom. Having a plan or routine will help you and the children know exactly what to expect when it comes time to move into or out of centers.

    As with any new routine, you will need to practice your transition technique several times before it will become a habit for the children. Be consistent with your routine, and be sure to use the same techniques at the same time every day. Having several techniques in your back pocket will provide you with an alternate choice if one transition method is not working for you or your class. Be flexible, and know that in time, transition times will become easier.

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    Transition Techniques, Tips, and Tricks

    A typical attention span for a pre-kindergarten child is about fifteen minutes. This, of course, is not a number carved in stone. There are bound to be children with much longer attention spans, as well as those who are not able to concentrate on one task for that long. Keeping in mind activity set up and clean up, the amount of time spent in each center should really not exceed twenty-five to thirty minutes in a pre-kindergarten classroom. Remember that when planning your daily schedule.

    The Set Up: During your morning circle time, be sure to tell the children which centers will be available during center time. Having a method for choosing their first center choice of the day can sometimes ease the very first transition to centers. For example, use Popsicle sticks labeled with each child's name. Using a large piece of foam board, label the name of each center, as well as how many students are allowed to be in that center at one time. Cut a normal letter sized envelope in half and glue it to the foam board, creating a pocket. Have children choose their first center by placing their Popsicle stick in the right pocket. Dismiss children from circle time directly to their centers in groups of three to four.

    The Big Move: While children are playing in centers, be sure to walk around and let them know how long they have left to play. A good rule of thumb is to give warnings starting when there are ten minutes before a transition, five minutes, two minutes, and then the final call when it is time to clean up and prepare to move. Songs are a great technique to use when transitioning to another activity. It does not have to be anything involved or challenging, but a simple tune can get things moving nicely. Some to try include:

    I See You (sung to Are You Sleeping?)

    I see brown eyes.

    I see blue eyes.

    Green eyes, too.

    I see you.

    Quiet all your voices now.

    Show me that you know how.

    Here we go.

    Here we go.

    This song is great for quiet transitions, as well as moving out of the classroom in a line to another area of the school such as lunch or outdoors. The beginning of the song encourages children to put their eyes on the teacher and use quiet voices.

    Transitions do not have to be the most difficult part of teaching pre-kindergarten. To move to centers, all you need is a plan and a few tricks up your sleeve and your transition times will be as smooth as the rest of your day.


    "500 Five Minute Games"; Jackie Silberg; 1995