Transitions and How to Beat Them

It’s Monday morning. I look around my class and I can sense it. My class just came back from playtime and there is sense of uneasiness that is too obvious to ignore. The tension is there. I cannot see it, but I can feel it. I felt it before when I was teaching Year 5/6 in a village school near Canterbury. I often felt it when I was teaching in a special provision in London and I can now feel it again in my class with children with severe and/or complex needs, with associated communication and learning difficulties. A misunderstanding between friends, an unresolved argument, the football getting kicked over the fence, the weather, simply the fact that’s Monday - the trigger sometimes is not even possible to identify. 

Teachers across Kent know what I’m talking about. Transitions can be tricky for children, particularly when they have to stop playing and socialising with each other on the playground and return back to class for lesson time. I have observed teachers that have developed a healthy relationship with their class, comfortable enough to ask them, “Are you ready for learning or do you need to have a dance off first?” which, more often than not the children respond with, “Yes please, let’s dance to Thriller on Just Dance.”

In my class, things are slightly different. My students are not always capable to recognise the way they feel. Additionally, like most children of primary school age, self-regulation can be challenging. Working in a special school, I have the opportunity to work with a range of professionals such as art therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and others. Using techniques from different specialists, my class and I developed different strategies to deal with this tension when coming back from playtime. We also used it at the beginning of every lesson as a warm up to get us ready for learning. The strategies are based on breathing exercises and ways of applying deep pressure to the body to provide a calming sensory input.

Here is a list of some fun ways to breathe. Take a deep breath and when exhaling, make the sound of the animal. My pupils made their own animal breaths:
Snake breath
Cow breath
Cat breath
Lion breath
King Kong breath

Applying deep pressure to the body in different ways is an excellent calming method. 
Hugging yourself or the Pretzel
Pushing the Wall or Making the Class Bigger
Pushing the Wall with one Hand
Pushing the Wall with one Leg
Pushing each other or High Fives Push
Placing your hand on the chair and lifting your body upwards
Stretching your hands upward to touch the ceiling 

These activities take only a couple of minutes and they help my pupils settled in, concentrate and engage during my teaching input. If during the lesson, I feel that I am losing their engagement, or someone is becoming anxious or upset, I may return back to them to help the children calm down. Anyone can use them, and you don’t need any resources for them. Have a try and see the results. 

As educators, learning is our business and we need to practice what we preach. Are you learning? Is Graham's blog for Learning at Work Week; find out how you can be a lifelong learner and how it can benefit you!

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