Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Visit the Midday Edition homepage

What Learning Looks Like: The Art And Science Of Classroom Transitions

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available.

April 20, 2017 2:21 p.m.

What Learning Looks Like: The Art And Science Of Classroom Transitions


Kathryn Owen, director, early care and education, UC San Diego

Related Story: What Learning Looks Like: The Art And Science Of Classroom Transitions


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

With an actual buzzer marking the end of the workday every second counts for teachers. That is why they are under pressure. Reporter Megan Burks says it is also a science.

Painting sidewalk are.
Hula hoops and hopscotch
The preschool model and UC San Diego Mesa child development center is all about free choice within reason.
It is time to clean up friends.
When it is news desk music time the teacher has an elaborate system to get preschoolers from controlled chaos outside to upright and facing forward inside.
I usually give five-minute warnings any time we do a transition that way it is a little bit easier on the kids. As they are doing that transition I always ask if they can help help others
I notice a lot of kids really like to be helpers. She then uses song

Can you find a seat please?
All right now let's put on our seatbelts.
Even after all that one boy turns his back and goes for a Dr. Seuss book another stairs into space.
Young children particularly those under five years of age have trouble with flexibility tasks that we would find really straightforward.
The ability to the controller thinking so we can switch from one task to another. Says when young children do not follow demands it is not because they are ignoring you or choosing to misbehave it is because that outer layer of the brain is still developing.
Projections from one neuron to other neurons are getting surrounded by these fatty sheets called myelin sheaths. That process greatly speeds up neural conduction and kinda reduces noise.
It is like inflating the dryers -- wires of the drywall and it's like editing clunky computer code or the first draft of the manuscript.
The brain gets edited in the same way. There is not a lot of proliferation neurons what there is is pruning back their selective death of nuance that are not well connected to other neurons and there's synapses that do not contribute in to overall coherence. We speak of growth and development of getting better. In the nervous system it is also really important to be cutting back on the parts that are not helping you be the most efficient nervous system you can be.
A blank stare and repetitive behavior is like spinning wheel on your computer screen. The processing speed is a cognitive science term and is a little bit slow. He says there is also things that adults may take for granted the kids are still learning to communicate and do not always pickup on body language and voice intonation and the memories cannot take on as much as ours.
The given instructions in small bites and repeat them a lot.
We start -- saw in the classroom is a lot of scaffolding. We saw adults interact with kids to guide and regulate and constrain their behavior. They are doing things to reduce the memory load
Put your books on the shelf.
Songs go a long way as well.
Put your books on the shelf you can do it all yourself your books on the shelf

Joining me is Catherine Allen director of early care and education and UC San Diego. Look into the program.
Thank you for having me.
Listening to have his teacher handled the group of preschoolers was very enlightening. I think many parents think their children are not paying attention to them if they do not follow instructions. The need to be instructed sort of every stuff either way. Can you talk about why these methods work so well?
Natalie did a really nice job of illustrating how by taking those instructions and breaking them up into smaller steps a child can go from one situation to another with out that situation. If you will remember from the story what Natalie did as the children were cited in our free choice should -- the situation where they were able to explore their environment they were enjoying what they were doing some of them is active play and they were transitioning from that time to their circle meeting time. So that was really important because if they are absorbed and something they are doing it can be very stressful and very frustrating if they suddenly get whisked away from that
That given an opportunity to process that there would be a time of change. After that she used to son. By using the song she engaged them and they became involved in the cleanup process. Even facilitated the opportunity to to the task more quickly an opportunity to go sit inside on the rug and get a book so that they began calming their bodies and teachers were able to support the children who were having a little bit more difficulty getting through the task. To use the song again together their attention with supportive putting the books away and I went into their morning meeting time and were better able to bestow during that time but then she mixed it up again by having a song where they actually got to have that choice and follow the instruction again of going to the middle of the circle and dancing when it was their turn. The got to have self-expression and be created and have some control over what they were doing. They understood what it was that she expected of them.
Children go through so many transitions throughout the day. Is there a different way that these transitions should be approached.
I think it is important to remember that there are multiple transitions but they are all predictable within a routine so there's never an unexpected surprise for the child that makes them ill uncomfortable. They have some anticipation of what is going to come next week or even in a situation where there might be an unexpected surprise like the emergency alarm goes off the air used to the kids for what it means to gather at a certain time or the strategies that are being used for they are familiar with and understand the person -- purpose behind them it's a lot less stressful together in the situation and they have the ability to follow that instruction.
What is the age range for this kind of mental processing that goes on for kids.
This particular class was 2.5 to 5-year-old children that in a mixed age group
So what is really fascinating for me is that children are born with one organ that is not fully developed and that is their brain. So for the first few years there's an enormous amount of growth happening in the brain and what we want is for that to be healthy development so that they can cope with these transitions and the different things that will come from this life and we want them to be successful and they referred to the fact that we are not actually supporting the social and emotional skills so that they have the foundation to be able to navigate the situations and be able to use words to express their feelings and ask questions then they are going to actually lose the ability to be is focused on other situations.
I am interested in the fact that there's free choice in the classroom featured in the story that we heard. We'll explain how the concept of free choice works when teaching very young children as you say rely on a certain sense of predictability to transition from one thing to another.
In the future of the children -- one example of that is the children are painted creatively by rolling and avocado seeing clearly and they could not do that all the same time so right there there is the process of understanding that they could not be there all at the same time and that they needed to wait there was the turn to do so so they were the transitioning. To have free choice during that time to explore and discover and learn and what they are interested in and they can creatively set up the environment.
I've been speaking with Catherine director of early care and education at UC San Diego. Thank you so much.
Thank you again.