I don't see the point in cues to let my students know one activity is over and another is beginning.
Forgive me, but these are my takeaways from last night's #langchat on Sequencing and Transitions. I had never thought about what I thought about transitions and sequencing until this chat made me stop and verbalize it. I was actually dreading the topic, because I didn't know what I or anyone else had to say about it. Well, who knew I had such clear beliefs about them? Not even me! Isn't #langchat amazing that way?
Now, I am on a roll and can't stop thinking about how we make transitions in our language classes and how they can assist in the learning process rather than just serve as a way to manage the chaos.
I believe we are teaching more than language. I think we are teaching our students how to think about language and the messages they want to convey. Like railroad, roadway or network engineers, we should be designing our lessons so that we are laying in front of students pathways to facilitate their communications. That's why when I plan a lesson, I don't try to connect activities together artificially. At least I try not to because I think our lessons should be laid out logically with transitions that mirror how we communicate in real life. Instead, I try very hard to design a lesson that builds and progresses from simple to more complex communications so that my students are able to understand, process and produce larger and larger chunks of language as the lesson progresses. I want my students to see that the goal is not the word or the sentence, rather the complete interaction that will probably require multiple parts. All that being said, I believe that in order to make this happen we should capitalize on the communicative modes and use them as essential scaffolding as well as practice for students.
I don't know if you have noticed, but to me transitions are more than cues or breaks between the phases of my daily lessons. They are more like the bridge activities that I build to move my students from one point in the lesson to the next. Transitions should serve explicit purposes that my students see and understand. My reason being that if they understand the purpose of what I ask them to do, they will more readily participate in the process, and thus will be much more engaged. So, I challenge the idea that student engagement has to be connected to having choice or that activities are inherently fun in nature. Our goal should always be that the steps, tasks and/or transitions we plan should be so valuable that our students understand that they cannot reach the learning target without participating that part of the learning experience. I would go further to say that if the transition is well planned, students can probably predict the next step in the learning process planned for the day. This means that our lessons should be more than an agenda for the things we plan to do. They should be a series of smaller goals that lead to reaching a bigger goal by the end of the instructional day.
Do I believe in time limits? Yes. Do I believe in cues to regain students' attention? Yes. I am a bigger believer in creating learning experiences that are so seamless that the students never noticed there were multiple parts to the lesson. I want the lessons I plan to feel logical, maybe even easy to move through because personalizing their own messages, building questions and sustaining interactions are difficult enough. I don't need to add any more heavy lifting for my students. Finding the right words to convey their own meaning is quite a mental workout. The transitions I plan should be meaningful, purposeful and integral to the larger communications I want them to learn to have. They should be the road signs that direct them to their destination, not the billboards that pull them off the road.
Just my two cents, but here's a model lesson to give you an idea of how I see transitions.
Model Lesson - Changing Our Habits