How to Improve Focus and Learning During Transitions

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and for those of you celebrating another faith, may you enjoy being with loved ones  and have a holiday filled with laughter and joy!

I’m sure you have a lot of relaxing to do today, so today’s blog is short. As someone who works with all ages of learners, it is quite often the transitions which can be a challenge. Here are three strategies I have used with a variety of ages.


This is about helping young learners use their energy in effective and respectful ways. There are many variations on this, and here’s one example:

ANIMAL (younger learners)

Ask your students/children to become their favorite animal as they are transitioning. At random moments, ask them to “Hold your energy” (of that animal). Let them know they can breathe, but the game is all about how they can each improve in how long they can hold their energy and how still they can be. The idea is to encourage them to use their energy AND learn how to hold their energy.

ACTION (any age learner)

Ask your students/children to become an action word you choose, or one they choose. Whatever they choose should be “in one place”. So “running” would be running in place, as would jumping, etc. Leaping could be leaping back and forth from one spot to another. At random moments, ask them to “Hold your energy” (of the movement itself).


While, I have had my students go from a green banana to a ripe banana on the ground (a la Yoga), I sometimes want them to stay standing during a transition, so here’s what I have done with this strategy.

Note: this doubles as a fantastic stretch and posture strategy for any age learner.

  • Invite your students to stand like a banana with no curve, with their feet touching.

  • Both hands go up in the air with one clap of the hands.

(The unpeeling of the banana now begins… hold each stage for at least 10 seconds)

  • 1st Stage: Their bodies should look the letter Y

  • 2nd Stage: Their upper and lower bodies remain the same and their arms should look like one large W, with bent elbows.

  • 3rd Stage: Their upper and lower bodies remain the same and their arms should straighten to each side (their bodies should now look like a letter T).

  • 4th Stage: Their upper and lower bodies remain the same and their elbows should now attempt to touch the sides of the rib cage, with their forearms still point out (sort of a lowercase T).

  • 5th Stage: They bend over and see if they can put their palms on the floor with feet still together, and straight legs.


This strategy can be for younger students still learning or reviewing their letter sounds, yet it can also be for later elementary years. There are many play-based ways I use to teach breathing to improve focus and performance.

At some point before I use this during a transition, I demonstrate the following:

  • Breathing in through my nose for about 2 seconds

  • Breathing out through my mouth for about 4 seconds on an “Ah”, “Sh” or “S”

Note: The 2/4 ratio needs to be kept to be effective. So if they choose to breathe out for 10, they would need to breathe in for 5.

During a transition moment, I’ll ask, “For how long and which letter sound?”

For longer breathing times, which help calm mind and body even more, the “S” on the breath out is the most effective, but I let my students choose. I like to allow them to figure out what works best on their own. When working with older students, I’ll have students trying to breath out for 20 seconds! So fantastic to observe the changes which occur.

Enjoy these three simple strategies and have a fantastic holiday break!


Luke Hewlett