When I moved to Seattle in 2004, the very first place I began working was as a substitute at the Hilltop Children's Center. I contacted them before I moved from New York, and I spent a few of my first days in Seattle working at this beautiful, Reggio inspired school.
I was thinking about one of my days at Hilltop on Monday when we were getting ready to end choice time. I said we would be done in 5 minutes...then in 2 minutes...then in 1 minute...then I asked the child with the job of bell ringer to "ring the bell". The bell rang, and, like some days, the blocks were kicked over, scarves were shoved onto the hat rack, and buckets and funnels were literally thrown into the water at the sensory table. More of a mess was created then when we were working.
So my thought is this (and I do have a point): Am I stressing them with all of the warnings and creating a clean up time explosion? I have this memory (which may be partially fictional because of my constant awe about how this EVER could have happened) of being at Hilltop during choice time/center time/free play/what have you, and the children took the cue from a piece of music to know when to clean up. It was a classical piece...a teacher turned it on with a few minutes left, and at a certain point in the piece, the children began to clean up and transition into the next activity.
Some children need the verbal warning, especially if transitions are difficult for them. We rest and eat in the classroom, so we need to make floor space and clear off the tables -- clean up has to happen. The verbal warnings and the bell work, but could using the music approach work and keep the room calm?
I found myself shuffling through my iPod on the bus home from work that day, thinking about what music would work. I'm intrigued. Is it a useful tool, or is it a Pavlovian signal?