Thursday, April 28, 2016

Transition bags (also called "quiet" bags)

Transition times in our classroom have always been an exercise that required tact organisation, patience and swiftness. What are transition times I hear some of you ask?Transitions are those periods of time when the children are moving from one activity to the next. In our setting the main transition causing chaos is usually the one after snack time when we need to clean up the tables and help the children putting their snack boxes away in their bag and put on their coats in preparation for our outdoor activities. Well, let me tell you that kids at that time especially get quite excited about going outside. They usually tend to talk louder, mess with each other, and some would run and jump too!  We tried different methods in the past:
  • we always give plenty of warning before any transition so the children are well aware of what's next.
  • though we are very flexible with our time, we always follow the same pattern as children usually respond well to it.
  • we use songs such as "clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up everybody do your share!"
  • we have a helper and a leader designated every morning. One of their jobs is to point at what still needs to be tidied up, showing the example. They are also the ones giving the snack boxes to each kid as well as table mats. They are also the ones who stand in the front of the line when we go out and who make sure everybody is standing in the line correctly.
Though we are still using these "techniques", this year I thought I needed something else to focus their attention during this transition time after snack time.

So I came across the idea of "quiet bags" on Pinterest (what did we do before Pinterest?)Basically, it’s a small bag containing a re-usable activity for your child to do independently and QUIETLY! And it works! It doesn't have to be a specific manufactured material. It can be anything from lollipop sticks, to sponges to wooden cubes, etc.. And although they are called "bags", you could also use plastic or wooden boxes. I would love to be able to find cheap fabric bags for mine rather than plastic sandwich bags. Why? First for aesthetical reasons. Second because children wouldn't be able to see what's inside, and we could call them the "mystery" bags adding even more drama and fun to them (so if you have any idea, please let me know where I can get them cheap! And so that you know,  I am not really good at sewing!!) The children at my setting are always looking forward to these bags. Why are they so popular? Probably because the materials on offer in these bags are not on the shelves and are not available to the children all the time. They also like the fact that they receive a random bag and it's always a bit of a surprise." What will I get today?"  My assistant usually hands out the bags randomly so there is no fighting among the children. When they are finished with their bag, they can go and return it to the big basket where we hold them and pick another one. Another way to distribute the bags is to label each bag with a number or a letter. Have cards made out with the same number/letter and give the children a card each during snack time. Once they have tidied up their snack, the children can go and retrieve the bag with the same number/letter as their card. Here is another good matching exercise for them and it also develops their number/letter recognition!! 

I have taken a few pictures today of some of the bags we have in our setting. I was a bit rushed by time so the list below is not exhaustive but I am sure I will be writing about these transition bags again in the nearer future and I will make sure to add more photos. Anyway, as I said before, the possibilities are endless and if you have short of ideas, I have gathered a few other ideas on my Pinterest board (have a look for yourself).