Transition times and how to master them
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Transition times: What they are, and how you can master them in the classroom?

Transition times: What they are, and how you can master them in the classroom?

by Hayes Greenfield

July 01, 2024

I’ve never met an educator who couldn’t use a great transition activity! Having  spoken with countless early childhood teachers (ECTs), educational and curriculum  coaches, service leaders and developmental neuroscientists, I can honestly  say that the general consensus across the board is that the years before school are really, in fact, all about transition times and how children respond, navigate, and  learn to interact with one another.


It is what prepares young  children socially, intellectually, and emotionally to be ready for school from  kindergarten to grade 12 and beyond.


Creative Sound Play


One of the many ways that educators can support children to transition from one activity, scheduled change or unexpected moment in the day is through the use of Creative Sound Play – a methodology which turns all transition times into short, fun, play based learning ‘bursts’ that develop children’s executive functioning ability, social and emotional skills, mindfulness, active listening capacity and more. 


At its core, Creative Sound Play is entirely play-based and plugs into the one activity almost every child loves and adores doing–making sound! As well, we only focus on these three basic elements of sound: pitch (high or low);  volume (quiet or loud); and duration (long or short). 


All that matters is that everybody has fun creating and trying to make an  intentional sound in a specific, deliberate way. Whether or not one does or  doesn’t make an intentional sound doesn’t matter. All that matters is that  they are consciously trying to do so. And because we all know transition  times are extremely repetitive, they provide wonderful, natural opportunities  to practice making all kinds of sounds in fun, deliberate ways. And truth be  told, some of the best sounds are the wonderful unintended ones. 


Turning transitions into learning


The best and most efficient way to begin to learn about sound, silence, and  implementing Creative Sound Play is during transition times—all those  pesky times that are universally challenging for even the most skilled  educators that can take up to 15 per cent to 20  per cent of learning time, and can  determine whether the flow of the day is easy and supportive for quality  learning, or anxious, stressful, and unmanageable wasted time. 


To understand why Creative Sound Play works so well with transitions, let’s  simply examine what transition times really are. The sole function of a  transition activity is to get the attention of children, focus them, and then be  able to seamlessly guide them through a transition from one activity to  another.


  • Transitions range in length from five seconds to  five minutes or more, and one  type of transition activity doesn’t work for all transitions. 
  • Transitions happen in all areas of early learning—before and after meals, moving to or from the outside space, or while connecting or disconnecting from visiting providers offering other lessons.
  • Transitions are repetitive and happen throughout the day, like clockwork.  


Now, let’s examine how, through the lens of Creative Sound Play, transition  times are where the magic begins. 


  • All children—whether verbal, nonverbal, or even those with additional needs—love to make  sound. They don’t have to learn anything new or develop any special  skills; all they have to do is just be their beautiful, lovable selves. 
  • Sound is robust and profoundly flexible, and a sound activity can be as  short as five seconds or last as long as five minutes or more in length and  happen in all areas of school. 
  • Children love and adore repetition because repetition helps children feel  safe and calm. 
  • Transitions and repetition—provide a regular built-in time throughout  everyday to practice making all kinds of intentional sounds in all  kinds of deliberate ways. 
  • Children love to learn, love a good challenge, love to build on what they  already know, and adore adding complexity to a sound activity through a  simple variation. 
  • Making sound is entirely play-based and enables children to control their  environment, take agency, and be more independent.  


Creative Sound Play in action 


Now, imagine for one moment what it might be like for you to actually look  forward to doing transition times—the very notion that on your way to or  from your early learning setting, you might actually be thinking of what kinds of transitions,  subject matter and lines of development you want to work on with your children for that  day or week.


What a simple way to profoundly change your whole teaching  experience, not to mention help you manage the children in your care better. 


Here is a very simple sound activity for a transition that is all of 20 seconds  at most. When I walk into a classroom filled with pre-K students, a teacher  workshop, or a presentation in a conference hall, the first thing I do is count out loud 1, 2, 3, 4, and keep repeating it but at different volume levels.  


Medium loud at first, then at a whisper, then loudly, then medium again,  and then end on a whisper. Inevitably everyone’s active listening skills engage, and they jump in and join me in counting at different levels of  volume. 


This simple activity engages our executive function skills or (EFs)– inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility; our social emotional learning (SEL), mindfulness, and is a perfect transition activity to  use with children during short transition times!  


This is just one very simple, easy-to-do sound activity that is available  to everyone, and children love it.  


If you like this excerpt from my book Creative Sound Play for Young  Learners, A Teacher’s Guide to Enhancing Transition Times,  Classroom Communities, SEL and Executive Function Skills, I hope  you will check out the rest of the book and see how making intentional  sound and silence effortlessly transforms into an interconnected,  generative, play-based learning ecosystem for everyone!


Hayes Greenfield is an award-winning jazz musician, educator, and the author of the new book Creative Sound Play for Young Learners: A Teacher’s Guide to Enhancing Transition Times, Classroom Communities, SEL, and Executive Function Skills. More at

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