Transitioning between tasks... When you're the teacher!

I just realised that one of the things I am still struggling with as a teacher is the pace of lessons, and that has to do with transitioning between tasks.

My lessons need to have more ‘pace’: I need to expect more production from my teenagers (14-16) and I need to have more variety in activities offered per lesson.

And I think (since a couple of seconds ago reading on here about why getting in the shower can be an issue for us brains!) that my own difficulty transitioning between tasks may be part of the reason why I am not very good at getting other people to transition between tasks.

Any potentially helpful thoughts, anyone? (I don’t think you have to be a teacher to have useful input on this).

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A few ideas:

  • Write the agenda for each class on the board. This will help you stay organized, but also help the students understand what is coming up and how to prepare. If you want to challenge yourself, you can even put times on the tasks so that the class can know the pacing and you have an urgent incentive to move from one to another.
  • Spend more time coming up with creative tasks and activities, such as videos, Powerpoint, worksheets, breakout projects, mindfulness breaks, etc. Sometimes you can overlap one with another. Maybe while the class is watching a short video you can get setup for the next task. I’m sure you probably already do this, though.
  • Give out instructions to different class members each session. Pass out little pieces of paper that include numbers on them that correspond to the order you want to do things in. For example, “Who has number 1?” “I do!” “What’s it say we’re going to start with?” “It says math problems. Ew.” “Okay, math problems it is!” … I don’t know what you teach, so I picked an example.
  • Mindful moments. Before diving into the next activity, take a moment for yourself to focus in on where you are, how your body feels, what is going on around you, and to think about the task ahead. It can be a few seconds or a couple of minutes. Sometimes doing a few deep breaths, a stretch, or even a moment of reflection can be helpful in shifting gears.
  • Ask the class what order they’d like to do things in. Let them help determine the transition, but let them know that all the things have to be done during the class. You can even list some bonus activities as options if you get through everything that needs to be done.

Mostly I’d say have fun with it. I’m not sure what grade or subject you teach, but I’m sure there are ways to help with transition. Usually if you can find ways to involve the students that can help them stay engaged and also help them feel a sense of connection and ownership to the material and to the class.

Whatever you do, good luck!


This is brilliant, thank you! It’s not so much that it’s new - a lot of it isn’t - but I haven’t looked at some of these things as being related to task switching and/or pace. Or I only thought they were to do with one but not the other.

So I have flagged the email I got with your reply and will read it several times. It’s helping me to work out what does what in terms of cause and effect.

Thank you!

I’m an English teacher, teaching 14-16 year olds - and adults, elsewhere, but somehow I get away with murder there. I think the improvements in my school classes will have a positive effect on my adult ed teaching though. My current focus is definitely on improving the school lessons!


Interesting thread! Quick question, what the heck does this mean??? I don’t think confessing to murder online is a very good idea :joy:


Indeed, and I wasn’t :joy:

Getting away with murder means that you do things wrong and don’t get called out on that.

Often used to complain about unfair treatment, like ‘How come I’m not even allowed to leave a single dirty mug in my bedroom but you never tell my sister off? Her room’s a mess and she doesn’t even come home for dinner half the time. She gets away with murder! :angry:


Aaahhh ok, thanks for explaining!


Hey Lustforlife!

That’s so cool that you’re a teacher!

I think those were some awesome thoughts from quietly lost. I think being extra prepared (Which you may be already of course! Also ew why’s it so hard?!) could help. If you have thought of your agenda for the class, made it so the tasks are interesting and engaging for you as well as the students (to help keep you all focused!), and have a rough idea of how long you’d like things to last that seems like a great basis to keeping on track, as quietlylost said.

Maybe you could make sure there’s a big clock in the room somewhere where you can easily see it, or maybe you could do something fun with an alarm like set it as music to play when you want to transition and you could all have a real quick dance party to regroup and reset then carry on?? Or you could have the countdown music or something?? Obviously you want space because some tasks may be quicker and some slower than you thought but you could still continue after the alarm if necessary obviously, it’d just be as a guide. Try out different things. Maybe even talk to your class depending on if you think that would be appropriate but they may find it cool to be able to help you out with something?! Idk if any of this is helpful?! Anyways, just being aware of the fact there may be a problem, and trying to fix it makes me think you’re an awesome teacher.

Can I just say as well, @quietlylost you are just the coolest! You always have really amazing advice, always so thoughtful and considered and kind and helpful! I hope you know that!


Hehe, language barrier problems :joy::joy::joy:


Thanks, @Lucy1

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<3 Thanks!

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@Lustforlife I know this thread was pretty much pre-corona …and switching to working from home gave me at least the chance to realise how much more peace of mind there is to be had from …mandatory isolation.

Because yes, transitioning between tasks takes up energy, but it seems to me it’s the spontaneous interruptions from the exterior that often tip the balance to overwhelm. Whatever is part of the work itself, I can plan it, which also means I visualise it, and so the transitions happen sort of as following a program. But if there is a sudden knock at the door, call, or a loud sound, or a student (bless them) interrupting me while I’m making a point …Those are the things that pile up. …aaaand that’s the stuff that’s just part of the work, so I try and be really thorough with the able to plan bit.

ON A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT NOTE: I was looking for you here in the forum, specifically, because there was once something you replied to one of my topics that was really helpful to me. It was a couple of years ago, and I had been a bit taken aback by how my sister had reacted to me saying it turns out I have ADHD.

The thing is, I am now in the process of writing a master’s thesis on a topic to do with teaching students with traits of ADHD and/or dyslexia. And I would like to ask your permission to paraphrase something about what you said — obviously on a very general level — to be able to give a concrete instance of something anecdotal. Because I recently arrived at the same point or observation from another direction, and I immediately remembered what you had said …in December of 2018 :blush:

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Yes, no problem, you can use my quote and thank you for asking permission :kissing_closed_eyes:

I do remember that we talked about that but will go off and look for the details now of course :sweat_smile: (edited to add: I can’t guess which bit will fit in a thesis on adhd and dyslexia teaching, would live to know! :wink:)

I don’t know if it would also be helpful, but somewhere on here is also an anecdote about teaching kids with fidget toys, in particular the fidget spinners, when they first came in (I loved them, didn’t know yet that I had adhd, had a very different classroom experience during the fidget spinner craze than ‘most’ colleagues, as far as I could see). Which may say something about how being genuinely accepting of something your students do can vastly reduce friction and stress.

We all have personal ‘triggers’ - mine is lying, especially in a certain way. If I’ve already made it clear that it is safe to be honest about not having done something, so we can talk about what might need to change for them to want to do it after all, for example, but they can’t do that and continue to lie, I can sometimes find that frustrating. Or if a pupil does things that (from an adult) would be considered mean, I find it hard sometimes to keep forgiving and ‘forgetting’.

So I think what I am saying is that if a teacher (being only human) gets genuinely irritated by fidgeting, that will affect they way they engage with a pupil who does that. So maybe we should also be looking at that side of trying to improve classroom environments for people with adhd and dyslexia. Don’t know if there’s any research done on that, or if it’s too far from your current remit, but I will try and remember to look into this myself sometime!

Cool that you are also doing a master’s in education :smiley: Mine is in teaching English. Pre Corona I thought I could be done by December but now I think I’ll need longer.

I’ve just given up my job teaching adults, where I’ve been teaching for over 10 years, so that I can really focus on improving the secondary teaching. Still have to actually find a job for September but not worried yet.

Bit saddened and disappointed that the section leader who quizzed me very unprofessionally in November about my adhd has engineered it so that my contract isn’t being extended where I currently teach teenagers. I was making good progress on the classroom management side of things and then Corona happened, so she’s using that to point out I haven’t improved on that since March when the school went online.

Which is especially galling because my pupils have actually done better than hers since I got to coach them all from a distance :wink:

Sorry for the loooong post! I didn’t realise how much I missed being here, thanks for enticing me back​:smile::kissing_closed_eyes::wave:

By the way, what do you teach and how far along are you with your master’s?

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