Why You Shouldn’t Send Students Out Of Class For Time-Out

Smart Classroom Management: Why You Shouldn't Send Students Out Of Class For Time-OutSending students to a neighboring classroom for time-out is a popular strategy.

It’s popular because it’s easy and the consequence feels substantial.

The misbehaving student must pick up their things and exit the room.

There is a finality to it.

It carries the message that the student is no longer part of the class.

Walking into an unfamiliar classroom can also be uncomfortable, embarrassing even. Thus, in theory, it should make the consequence stronger.

So what’s not to like? Well, a lot.

Here’s why:

1. They miss instruction.

The biggest problem with out-of-class time-out is that your students will miss instruction time. Even if you send them with busywork or a reflection form, many will feel as if they got away with something.

Having time-out in class, on the other hand, allows you to expect the same hard work and attentiveness as everyone else—minus the active participation.

It also won’t burden you with having to catch them up to speed or expose you to complaints from parents.

2. It’s a weaker consequence.

For time-out to be effective, your students must feel like they’re missing something. When you send them out of your classroom this feeling is minimized because they’re unable to see what they’re no longer part of.

Time-out, then, feels more like a break and less like a consequence.

As long as your students enjoy your classroom—which is a core principle of Smart Classroom Management—being separated from their classmates while still in class is a strong disincentive to misbehave in the future.

3. You’re unable to monitor them.

Another key to effective time-out is to wait until the student shows remorse before allowing them to return to their seat, which can only be done if they’re in the room with you.

The way this works is that if the student is quiet and attentive, you would wander by the time-out desk and say, “Please let me know when you’re ready to leave time-out.”

Only after they raise their hand and politely ask to rejoin their classmates would you release them.

Their willingness to follow this procedure, which must be taught and modeled in detail before putting into practice, is a reliable sign that they’ve reflected on their mistake and taken responsibility for it.

Note: If any of the strategies above prompt questions, please refer to the Time-Out category of the archive. You’re sure to find your answers there.

So Much More

Many teachers haven’t had much luck with time-out because they view it as merely a punishment for wrongdoing.

Jason misbehaves so he goes to time-out.

But it’s much more than that. To curb misbehavior, time-out must be a place that encourages personal reflection.

It must be a place that causes students to accept responsibility and vow not to make the same mistakes again.

It must be a place that, when compared to being a member of the class in good standing, your students want no part of.

Keeping time-out inside your classroom supports these conditions and allows them to do their good work.

Time-out, then, becomes not a break from the classroom or a shameful punishment, but an avenue through which your students can grow and mature and become better people.

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30 Responses to Why You Shouldn’t Send Students Out Of Class For Time-Out

  1. Amy Gavin October 17, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    I only have one time out seat in my room and often times I have two students reach that consequence concurrently. How should I handle the issue?

    • Michael Linsin October 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Amy,

      It’s important to arrange your classroom in a way that allows for more than one time-out area. I’ll be sure and cover this in a future article.


  2. Rebekah October 17, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    My classroom is very small. The only free space to put a time-out chair is in the front of the room and the misbehaving student distracts the other students when he/she is in this location. Any advice?

    • Michael Linsin October 17, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

      Hi Rebekah,

      If a student in time-out is distracting others, it isn’t because of where time-out is located. I’ve written an article about how to handle those who play around in time-out. You can find it in the Time-Out category of the archive.


  3. Julie October 17, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    Is this really about elementary students? I teach middle school math and I have had, and currently have, a student who is incredibly rude, disrespectful and disruptive. I send him out in the hall. It doesn’t matter how enjoyable I make class because he has no self control. No amount of parent contact has had any positive effect on him as it just reinforces that his parents will let him get away with misbehavior.

    • Michael Linsin October 17, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Julie,

      For the most part. The transition away from time-out happens most effectively in 7th grade. I hope to have a guide for creating a classroom management plan for middle and high school teachers in the near future.


  4. Jacque October 17, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    Time-out in the classroom, does not work. The student is disruptive and disrupts others from learning. I believe in the time-out room, it has always worked for me, because the student will have to make up his work while others are having recess, or will have to take it home, for homework. A student in time-out cannot be forced to learn, so I give him the time-out room, we call it the “GYM”, because the time-out room, sounds like a punishment, and sometimes the student just needs a break, because he does not feel well, or etc. but time-out can be used to do your classwork, or to punch the walls.

    • Michael Linsin October 17, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      Hi Jacque,

      If in-class time-out isn’t working, it’s a sign that there are problems elsewhere. For more, please refer to the Time-Out and Rapport & Influence categories of the archive.


  5. Fred October 17, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi again Michael,
    As a regular reader of your emails I am hoping you’ll have some advice. How about students with documented special behavioral needs ( blurting out, anger issues, argueing, disrupting learning)? Do you recommend that I have the same expectations for them as for the rest of the class? If not, will that affect the rest of the students?

    • Michael Linsin October 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Fred,

      For the behaviors you mentioned, yes. Although I’ll be sure to cover this topic specifically in a future article.


  6. Shawna October 17, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    I’ve been reading your books (esp. Art,Music,PE) and these articles, and would love to see this addressed for high school. I’m not sure if this is appropriate for my teens. I would also like to see advice on organizing the classroom as I have a crowded room (and it’s often a pair of ‘miscreants’ that need to be moved).

    • Michael Linsin October 18, 2015 at 10:08 am #

      Hi Shawna,

      The particular strategy above is not. I’m working on a guide to creating a classroom management plan for middle and high school teachers.


  7. T G October 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

    So long as the student has a follow up consequence and this includes but is not limited to completing work it can be effective. There are also teens who will repeatedly choose not to work and to disrupt others having taken a dislike to a subject. One I know who was sent to me many times for time out has now led a group into drug taking at school. I wish our school as a whole had done more when he would not respond to teachers. His parents are in and out of jail for similar offences but he may have been able to be turned around with a focussed whole school intervention. His time out was vital on some occasions as science labs could not have been done safely with him present.

  8. Ebenezer October 17, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    Hi michael,
    Thanks for your smart classroom management articles. I apply it and it works perfectly. I appply time out when i sent pupils to lower grades to better their skills in reading. Proved that when they come back to class they become serious. Its not a punishment but it shows accountability so they take reading lesson serious.

  9. sheila October 18, 2015 at 7:23 am #

    I need to send my students out of class because Im handling 60 students. Everything will be ruined if they will stay in my class

  10. L.B. October 18, 2015 at 9:34 am #

    An option is to give ‘sent-out’ students behavior reflection sheets which they are required to fill out completely during their time in another class. These can vary in length and detail and be printed on various colored-sheets to signal to the ‘intake teacher’ the severity and or length of their ‘time away’. Also, the ability to send, for example, an 8th grade student to a 6th grade class can add a sobering edge to the action for chronically disruptive students.

    One thing is certain: if you have conveyed to your class that their right to an education is interfered with by disrupting students, they add a leveraged support to the teacher’s actions to restore their learning environment, by giving disruptors time away.

  11. L.B. October 18, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    An added note re: “Student Missing Instruction’ as a reason Not to send students for time-out: If disruptive students are permitted to stay, they cause every other student to miss THEIR instruction. This seems a very poor outcome for all students concerned.

  12. Emily October 18, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    My kiddos (2nd grade) tend to drag their own chairs to a time out spot despite having set up 3 spots. Since I use chair pockets they’ve all their necessary supplies with them to do work. Is this a fair option or is it best to have specially designated time-out chairs?

    • Michael Linsin October 18, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

      Hi Emily,

      It’s best to have a designated place for time-out.


  13. Emily October 18, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    On the note of special behaviors, I had an autistic kiddo last year with tendencies to outbursts and the like. I gave him the same expectations. He had a full-time aid who helped enforce consequences. Everything went smoothly.

  14. Cameron October 19, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    I only have students for about 60 minutes and then they rotate and I don’t see them until the next day. If a student moves to time out with 30 minutes left in class, and during time out, continues to do misbehave until the end of class,(in other words they’re not taking time out seriously) would I start them in timeout the next day with 15 minutes? If not, what would I do? Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin October 20, 2015 at 6:40 am #

      Hi Cameron,

      You would move to the next ladder in your consequences.


  15. John October 20, 2015 at 1:02 am #

    Hi Michael, thanks for leaving your page open to comments. Your no time out strategy is a nice idea but unfortunately in a challenging secondary school context students at times need to be exited from a classroom completely. If a student is intentionally setting out to derail your lesson it is unfair on the other 25 students to have this continual distraction and disruption while they are trying to learn. If you move them around the classroom to a different place this just gives the student further grounds to jeer, debate, argue and ultimately …disrupt. That approach undermines the teacher’s authority, gives power and attention back to disruptive students, and undermines/ takes up the learning time of other students. It draws a shaky, arbitrary line in the sand, opening your rules and authority up to a debate by the disruptive student (during the other students’ valuable learning time) in a similar way reflective time out forms do (which I noticed you have criticised in previous emails). I’ve had to use the ‘move them around the room’ with warnings approach at other challenging secondary schools and I have found it frustrating and ineffective. At my school we do 3 clear warnings and then the student is exited to a time out room and then they have to come and see the teacher to discuss their misbehaviour and come to some kind of understanding before reentering the classroom. I like this as it sent a precedent for a standard of behaviour that is acceptable in a classroom, and if a student can’t live up to that standard of behaviour, they lose the privilege of the instruction given to them in the class at that time. These standards are not dissimilar from those expected in a real life work environment so I feel that they should be also upheld in the classroom.

    • Michael Linsin October 20, 2015 at 6:43 am #

      Hi John,

      Thanks for sharing. We’re working on an e-guide for middle and high school teachers that reflects the differences. We don’t recommend in-class time-out for students older than 7th grade.


  16. sharon kinsey October 22, 2015 at 3:39 am #


    I generally agree with your advice. But in the case of middle school I respectfully disagree. If a child comes from a home where disruptive behavior is tolerated, or the home situation is such that disruptive behavior is how the student gets his or her attention needs met, keeping the student in the classroom does not work. I have found that sending the student to a neighboring classroom or outside into a reading pod area works because the student’s familiar audience is missing. For whatever reason, the student sits quietly and does the assigned work and does not disrupt the temporary classroom. Other teachers have found this to work as well. For students who have “diagnosed” issues, nothing works if they are “off their meds.” There seems to be a percentage of students with a mindset of “I could care less about anything you do to me” and none of your excellent suggestions in the book work. I am a firm believer that students with chronic behavior issues – diagnosed or not – belong in a separate program where techniques like allowing them to move around or stand up during instruction – works and does not disrupt the normal learning environment. Just my feelings on the issue.

    • Michael Linsin October 22, 2015 at 6:41 am #

      Hi Sharon,

      We’re working on a classroom management plan guide for middle and high school teachers that doesn’t include time-out. So please stay tuned.


  17. Cheryl May 12, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    I have a small elementary school classroom filled with 24 students in 24 large desks. Every inch is filled with desks and students. There is absolutely no space for a time-out area. Until I figure out what to do, I have been having them sit out silent lunch if they break two classroom rules. Do you have a better solution?

    • Michael Linsin May 12, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

      Hi Cheryl,

      It’s hard for me to make a suggestion without seeing your classroom. However, in my experience, there is always a way. Remember, it’s a symbolic separation.


  18. Julia June 27, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    I was just wondering…if space in the classroom allows (a 3rd grade class mind you), do you think having a “stoplight” scenario set up would be effective? To elaborate, I was thinking of maybe having three time out desks in a line going up the middle between regular seating. The first student to receive a time out goes to the green desk, the second to the yellow, and the third to the red. Should we fill all three desks with students misbehaving, the class loses their next recess. Hopefully that makes sense? I absolutely agree with requiring them to reflect on their behavior, and I love the idea above of having them complete behavior reflection sheets!
    I’m new to teaching, and am just trying to structure as much in my head as I can 🙂

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