HomeTeacherPre School TeacherCleanup Transitions in the Preschool Classroom: What to Know

Cleanup Transitions in the Preschool Classroom: What to Know

Do transitions in your classroom have you at the end of your rope? Does it feel like you’re trying to herd kittens during arrival, dismissal, or cleanup time?

Then I have two things to tell you:

  1. You’re not alone.
  2. I can help!

You see, transitions are something that all early childhood teachers struggle with. Yes, even the most experienced ones.

The issue is that even though everyone says transitions are important, no one ever gives you an actual roadmap to follow.

And that can leave teachers like you and me feeling a bit… all over the place.

Lucky for you, because I’ve been through this more than enough times, I’ve come up with a foolproof formula to easy transitions in the preschool classroom; specifically, cleanup transitions.

So if getting your preschool students to clean up seems like an impossible task, this episode is for you!

Well then, what are you waiting for?

Tune in now.

The Four Building Blocks for Efficient Cleanup Transitions

Before I share with you my step-by-step formula to improve your cleanup transitions, we have to first identify what needs to be in place before you can achieve success with transitions.

You see, all types of transitions need building blocks, and cleanup transitions are no exception. Here are the four you need to be aware of before building a transition process.

Realistic Expectations

Having realistic expectations of what young children can do is crucial. You see, not all children can follow the same instructions, it all depends on their ages and developmental levels.

So, what am I trying to say here? Simply, don’t expect them to clean up perfectly! That’s not a developmentally appropriate or realistic expectation for any young child. 

A Predictable Daily Routine

with a picture schedule! 

A predictable routine is suuuper important for young children. It makes them feel safe and like they know what’s going to happen next. Not knowing what comes next in their day can make children feel unsafe, and that’s when you’ll see your transitions start to fall apart. 

Your young students need to not only know what comes next in their day, but also to see it in the form of a picture schedule. 

Having a predictable daily routine with picture cues can help your transitions flow more smoothly.

Plus, just know that a predictable daily schedule is the very beginning stage of planning and time management, which are two very important executive function skills.

Step-By-Step Picture Cues

Always make sure to use step-by-step picture cues to help your students transition during the most challenging times, such as arrival, dismissal, and cleanup.

Model, Model, Model

If you want your students to do something, then you must model how it’s done for them. You must also allow them time to practice before expecting them to actually do the thing you’re asking of them.

My Four-Step Process to Improve Cleanup Transitions in Your Classroom

[Image quote: “[You need to] have realistic expectations of the young children in your classroom based on their ages and developmental levels.” - Vanessa Levin]

Step #1: How Will My Students Know It’s Time to Transition?

Think with me, what signals do you use to transition your students? Some teachers like to use sounds to signal transitions, like a song, a bell, or a timer. You don’t necessarily have to do the same, but you do have to choose a signal to use, and use it consistently.

And remember, your signal needs to match your expectations. If you use a loud, fast song to signal transition, your students will match the song by being loud and fast, which can leave you with more of a mess-up than a cleanup.

Something else to keep in mind is the importance of using a picture schedule as part of your transition process so your students can also have a visual cue they can use as reference.

Finally, you will also want to give a five-minute warning before signaling for cleanup. This can include picture cues or personal reminders for those who struggle the most.

Step #2: What Should My Students Do When It’s Time to Transition?

Sure, signals might announce that it’s time to clean up, but your students will also need to know exactly what to do when it’s time. 

The “what to do” part depends on the building blocks mentioned above. And that means you need to have realistic expectations for the children in front of you and you need to have modeled and practiced repeatedly what happens when it’s time to clean up.

This is where visual picture cues come into play. You can use these picture cues to help children better understand what to do during certain times in the daily routine.

Another thing that can really help facilitate a quick cleanup are labels on each tub or container in centers with a matching label on the shelf. When your students know where the items belong, they’ll feel less frustrated during cleanup time.

Step #3: Where Do They Go When They’re Done?

And how should they go there? 

This is an important step because this is where things can start to get off track. If your students don’t know exactly where to go when they’re done cleaning up, they will wander around the room or go somewhere you don’t want them to. 

This is why you need to be very clear about exactly where they should go when they’re done cleaning up. You also need to have modeled and practiced this portion of the routine over and over again.

And don’t forget, make sure to include the “how should they go there?” portion. Because if you don’t model and practice this important piece, students will make their own decisions, and those usually include running, which can lead to a huge traffic control problem and even injuries.

Step #4: What Do They Do When They Get There?

For example, if you’re asking your students to clean up and go to the carpet or meeting area, then you must have instructions on what they can do when they get there.

Why? Simply because as I’ve mentioned before, children will make their own decisions about what to do. And that, my friends, usually includes karate moves, rolling around on the floor, or even going back to play at centers.

I dive deeper into this (plus share a few troubleshooting tips) in the episode above, so make sure to give it a listen when you can!

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Check out my previous video about preschool transitions

Grab my Visual Routine Bundle

Get my Back to School Bundle

Learn more about Teach Smarter, a book by Vanessa Levin

AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments