Scenario 1: You are teaching a lesson and everything is going great - students are listening and participating - you close the lesson feeling on top of the world. Now it's time to move to another activity or subject. So, you grab the next set of materials and move on. After all, you have a lot to do and need to get through the lesson plans. Not only that, your class has to go to lunch soon or computer lab or specials, etc. As you are moving on, the noise level grows and grows, students are restless, and possibly misbehaviors begin occur. Why?
Scenario 2: Your students return from lunch, computer lab, or specials and upon getting seated in the classroom, noise levels rise, and two students begin arguing, As a teacher, you are thinking "What is happening here? I don't have time for this, I need to start math."
So, how do you fix it?
TELL THEM YOUR EXPECTATIONS and GIVE THEM A PROCEDURE FOR IT: Have you told them what you expect them to do when you aren't teaching? Do they know what to do when they walk into the classroom and are waiting for instruction to begin? Here's what I have done in the past:
1. My students were expected to READ in between subjects, instruction, or whenever they don't know what to do. I would specifically tell them that was my expectation for them. They were responsible for having a book in their desk at all times - either a library book, a classroom book, or a personal one. ALWAYS.
2. I gave specific instruction at the end of a lesson. "Before we begin centers, I would like you to put your textbooks away, get your center folder out, and read quietly until I tell you to move to your center." This does two things, tells students exactly what I expect and gives them a procedure to do it and gives me time to move to my next activity or lesson.
3. If students were moving from desks to carpet area, I would say, "please fold your arms and walk quietly to your space." Expectation and procedure. If a student did not follow my directions, I would ask them to go back and do it again.
4. Before entering the classroom, I tell them exactly what I wanted them to do when they got to their desk or on the carpet area. This way, when I am ready to begin - they are too.
It's all about expectations and procedures. Now, 100% of your students are not going to follow directions or procedures 100% of the time - so don't be disappointed by this. If your students don't follow your specific directions - re-teach and let them try again. If you do this, they will get it and transitions will become quieter, easier, and more productive.
One more thing - be consistent. Try to keep transition procedures the same for similar activities. If you do, it will become routine. Give it a try - I think you will see improvement pretty quickly!