A ‘Conga’ of kids line up outside my classroom door four times a day (start of school day, end of morning break, end of lunch & end of afternoon break). On this occasion, I beckon them in through the window and watch the soap-opera unfold: the desperate attempts to polish off an over-ambitious snack; the continued debate over who spends the most time on Minecraft, and the final word in the inquest into the ‘stolen’ Lego mini-figure. There’s the missing slipper, the lost jumper, another kid’s coat on their peg and a trip to the toilet. And that’s just one child!
I have high expectations of my pupils – of course I do. Today’s ‘entertainment’ is all in the name of progress; I promise. Progress and a contextualised maths lesson.
The first to make it back to their work-space clocked a lightening time of eight seconds – not bad in a school that asks pupils to change into ‘indoor shoes’ (don’t ask!). With the kids unaware of my plan, I allow the soap opera continue until the last child made it safely back to his desk in a still quite respectable eighty seconds.
My lesson warm-up could then begin. I settled the class and stood in the cloakroom for eighty seconds – probably the longest eighty seconds of my career! As I stood there staring at the clock, the kids didn’t have a clue what was going on; it was brilliant and most likely to be my longest break of the day! ‘How long have I been stood here?’ I finally asked – they wrote their estimates on whiteboards; we arranged the times in order, knocked out a few conversions and calculated the range. The lesson had well and truly begun.
We then gathered on the carpet and I asked them how long they thought they spent hanging around the cloakroom in transition. I had a ‘Hardly anything!’ from a solid 20-seconder, to a ‘Oh No!’ from those clocked on to my cunning plan. ‘Long enough to impact on your learning?’ I asked. The enquiry had begun.
Twenty minutes of collaborative group work with clocks and calculators, drawings and decision-making – we were ready for the reveal.
Based on the length of school terms, we worked out that pupils with the slickest of transitions spend one and a half hours of a school year stood in the cloakroom. The kids were shocked – especially when we equated it to one and half lessons. You can imagine their anticipation and excitement to discover the fate of the cloakroom dwellers. We calculated that the slowest of pupils waste fifteen hours a year – that’s two and a half school days!
I brought the class back to the eighty seconds of silence that kicked-off the lesson; their teacher in the cloakroom and the almost embarrassing atmosphere. We imagined what it would be like to stand there for a couple of days. The message had hit home. ‘Maybe we should aim for eight seconds, Mr B !’ declared the same solid twenty-seconder. So we made a pact: to tighten transitions and cut down on ridiculous transition times that were impacting on us all. We came up with the idea of promoting our findings across school and created posters to help keep our promise – I’ve made them available for download Why slither to your seat when you can race to your place!
Poster-Pack available for free download here: Four Free Cloakroom Transition Posters