When the school day ends, many students file into after-school programs where they continue to learn and explore until it’s time to go home. But after hours of sitting at their desks, it may be difficult for students redirect their attention and focus on after-school enrichment.

One solution is to provide activities that create a smooth transition from the classroom to your afterschool program. These activities help students “get their wiggles out” and recharge for the fun, hands-on learning experiences you have planned. Most importantly, transition activities save valuable time and allow you to maximize the few hours you have with students.

Mastering Smooth Transitions

The key to successful transitions is building a process and reviewing it with students to ensure they understand your expectations. To help, we summarized author Michael Linsin’s five steps to achieving perfect transitions:

  1. Get students’ attention. You can simply say, “Focus on me, please,” or use a signal like a bell or fun call-and-response.
  2. Explain the next steps. Once you have every student’s attention, begin your directions with the words, “In a moment.” This keeps students from moving on, mentally or otherwise, until you finish speaking.
  3. Prepare students for the signal to start. Provide precise details on how they should prepare for the next activity. Use “When I say go” to encourage listening and keep students from moving until you give your signal.
  4. Use your “Go” signal. Once everyone understands the directions, give your “go” signal. You may consider using another word like “smooth” or “move,” as the word “go” may cue students to race.
  5. Observe. Watch to make sure all students are following directions.

Four Transition Activities for Afterschool Programs

Once students understand the transition process, you can begin using quick activities to help them transition from the classroom to afterschool. The following activities can help to enhance students’ attentiveness, concentration and focus after a long day at school. Even more, they can be done in under 15 minutes, which leaves ample time for afterschool learning and fun.

1. What’s That Trophy?

This creative activity from Scholastic is a great way to help students relax and release stress after a long day at school. To play, have students spread out across the room. Then ask them to pose as if they were a trophy at various events. You can say, “Show me what you’d look like if you were a trophy for a dance recital (or golf contest, bowling competition, etc.).”

And as they stretch their bodies into various poses, students will relax their muscles, release stress and refocus their attention. You can try 3-5 trophy poses to start the day, depending on time. For added fun, challenge students to hold each pose for as long as possible!

2. Activity BINGO

No one can resist a game of BINGO. And this physical activity BINGO game gets students moving to add to the fun! Each unique card features a variety of stretches and exercises like windmills, jumping jacks, burpies and push-ups. To play, the caller will read an instruction card that contains an activity. Everyone performs the activity, and those who have the activity on their BINGO card covers the square with a chip. Continue playing until someone shouts, “BINGO!”

If you plan on using Activity BINGO as a daily transition activity, only reward one winner per day. That winner can be the announcer for the next day and so on. It’s a fun activity to help students break a sweat as they prepare their mind (and body) for more afterschool activities.

3. Mingle, Mingle, Group!

This game from Minds in Bloom gives students an opportunity to interact with one another as they move about. To play, students will shuffle about the room saying, “mingle, mingle, mingle” in soft voices. When you say “Groups of 5,” they must quickly put themselves into groups with the correct number of people. Students who are left over must do a physical activity, like three jumping jacks, before the next round starts. Call out any number for the group size to keep the game going.

4. Free play

If you don’t have time to prepare for the other activities, let students loose for 15 minutes of free play. Recess is a great way to give students a break after the school day to release energy and recharge. And it’s not only a great transition activity. Free play also supports physical, social, emotional and cognitive development in students. Whether you head outside or stay indoors, this active play set includes equipment to keep students moving during free play.

These activities are perfect for helping your students transition from the classroom to afterschool. They can also be used to transition from one activity to the next. For more activity ideas, check out 10 Energizing Brain Breaks To Get Students Moving.