Teacher trying to get class's attention.

Signals for Quiet & The Transition Sequence


A lot of misbehavior in the classroom happens during and after transitions. Because of the difficulties that transitions can cause, having set signals for quiet and a method for transitioning students from one activity to another can have a big impact by reducing classroom chaos.

Signals for Quiet

Teacher trying to get class's attention.
Photo: Unsplash

Signals for quiet need to be established and practiced prior to classroom activity. Here are several signals for quiet that work:

Visual Signals

  • Hand up: The facilitator puts their hand up, and with the other hand, puts a finger over their mouth
  • Lights off: The facilitator turns the lights off to get participants’ attention, than turns the lights back on.

Audio Signals

  • Simon says response: “If you can hear me, touch your shoulders. If you can hear me, put your hands on the desk and stop talking…” This works better with children than adult learners.
  • Count down: “When I start counting backwards from 10, you will join in with me. When we get to 1, you will stop talking and sit quietly to wait for further instructions. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” This one works well with adult learners.


  • Clap response: The teacher claps a short rhythm then students repeat the rhythm. The teacher continues to do different rhythms until everyone is repeating the clapping response together. This is extremely effective with very large groups where audio or visual signals don’t have a high enough profile to get everyone’s attention.


Because transitions provide the most opportunity for students to disengage or misbehave, it is important to minimize this tendency with smooth transitions.

There is a ‘tried and true’ transition sequence that is guaranteed to reduce confusion and increase smooth transitions in the meeting or classroom. It must be done in order. The key steps are when, what, who, check for understanding, and signal to begin. Write this out on a 3×5 card and take it with you to class. It works!

Transition Sequence

  • When: Let the students know when they can move or participate in the activity
  • What: Give the details of the activity. Let your students know what you expect of them.
  • Who: Tell them who will move or what group the students are in.
  • Check for understanding: Ask whether everyone understands what they are supposed to do.
  • Signal to begin: Give a signal that tells students to start the activity.

Here is an example:

When I say ‘go’, we are going to get into groups of two. You are going to find a partner by locating someone who has the same kind of cell phone that you have. Does everyone understand whom you are going to get into partners with? Go!”

The transition sequence and signals for silence work particularly well when used together. The transition sequence helps students move smoothly into activities, and since the group has already practiced the signal for quiet, it will be relatively easy to regain control of students once you wish for the activity to end, at which point you can use the transition sequence to move into the next activity. Using both together can not only reduce misbehavior, but allow you and your students to move more quickly and effectively through your learning activities. Try it! You’ll like it!


Sharon Aka is the Associate Director of the Adventist Learning Community & Associate Director for the North American Division Office of Education. In her role she supports content development and training for pastors, teachers, ministries, administrators, and believers and seekers. She has worked for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for 3 years, and continues to be excited about combining her faith and profession. Sharon is a Registered Nurse by trade, with 16 years experience as Surgical Nurse and Nurse Educator at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. She also has 11 years experience as a Professor of Nursing and Professional Development Specialist for faculty at Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto, Ontario. Sharon is a PhD student at Andrews University, USA.


  • | April 16, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    You are so right that transition times can be challenging. They set the tone for the class and for future classes. I have used a variety of techniques over the years from: “class class” (they repeat), to clapping and they repeat, to simple hellos, to the use of song. It depends on the group, the age level, personality of the class, etc.

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