If high quality activities are the engine of a great program, transition games and positive reinforcement are the gears and valves that keep it running smoothly. The ultimate goal of having structured, fun transitions and positive reinforcement is to improve classroom management. Moreover, effective transitions and positive reinforcement keep youth engaged throughout the day, and they create a welcoming, uplifting community & group culture that will enable youth to achieve many desired 21st century skills and outcomes.
When we talk about transitions, we’re really talking about three things: Attention Getters (attention getting strategies), Energizers, and Minute Moves. First, let’s look at the timeline of a transition. We can see the major components of a transition in order to get to a new activity. To make transitions easier, we should match the right attention getter, energizer, and minute move to the space. Some games are more appropriate for some spaces, and that requires intentional planning.
To make things even easier, we have to have other structures in place, and it might make the timeline look like the above. If we have built youth leadership and group-based structures into programming, and we have taught youth how to respond to attention getters and participate in games, we will have a program that runs smoothly. Here are some great links to transition activities that could be just right for your group or program:
Positive reinforcement can be many things, but let’s look at ways to acknowledge youth efforts & successes. This could be as simple as a clap or as specific as taking imaginary pictures of someone who has done an amazing job.
Take a Bow or Curtsy – Have the student stand up, take a bow for the group while the other students clap and cheer
FLEX! – The student stands up and flexes their muscles while the group ooohs and ahhs.
Paparazzi – Have students form two groups. Select students get to walk past the two groups while they take imaginary pictures.
Too Cool (Too Hot) – Students say, “Brrrr! You’re too cool!” when a student gets something right (or “Whew…that was hot!”)
Standing Ovation – Students stand and give a round of applause to the student(s) who were successful.
Outstanding – Have youth stretch their arms above their heads in a ‘O’ while staff/student says “You did an outstanding job!”
Spectacular – Have youth use their hands to make fake glasses, and say, “Put on your spectacles cause you were spectacular!”
Pat on the Back – “Reach your hands way up in the air and now give yourself a pat on the back!”
Firecracker Clap – Students clap once near their knees, make the sound of a rocket flying upwards and clap above their heads.
DJ Clap – Students clap and say “chicka-chicka-remix” (or other DJ scratching sound)
Whoosh Clap – Students and staff clap and aim their “Whoosh!” toward a student or students of interest.
Roller Coaster Clap – Students say *Click click click* then CLAP * “Whoooooooooooh” while acting like they’re on a roller coaster.
Two Snaps and a Clap – Students snap fingers twice and clap once.
Handshake or High Five – When a youth makes a good effort in earnest, ask if they want a handshake or high five.
Incorporating games and activities like these support a positive, productive classroom culture. And implementing effective transition strategies lets you move quickly and seamlessly from one activity to the next, leaving students more time to participate in clubs, complete projects, and enjoy the programming day!
by Tyler Richendollar