Is It Ever Okay For Students To Leave Their Seat Without Permission?

Smart Classroom Management: Is It Ever Okay For Students To Leave Their Seat Without Permision?It’s a question we get surprisingly often.

Is it ever okay for students to leave their seat without permission?

Can they get up and grab a tissue, for example?

Can they turn in work or sharpen a pencil or select a new reading book without raising their hand?

If the answer is no, then hands are up all over the room from morning bell to dismissal.

If the answer is yes, then some students take advantage of it. They’re up wandering the room, bothering other students, disrupting the class.

And they always have a ready-made excuse for why they’re out of their seat. “Oh, I was on my way to the . . . uh, pencil sharpener.”

The teacher is then burdened with having to figure out whether the student is being sincere, and if not, what to do about it.

It’s disruptive. It’s time-consuming. It too often pulls the teacher into an argument.

So what’s the solution?

The solution is to define for your students precisely and narrowly what is and isn’t okay and when it is and isn’t okay to do it.

For example, if you want your students to be able to get a drink or grab a tissue without asking, then you would specify that these are the only exceptions to the raise-your-hand rule.

You would then model what getting a tissue looks like—which would include taking a direct route to and from the tissue box without interrupting others.

This may sound like overkill. It may sound like you’re being nitpicky. But it’s nothing of the sort. In fact, it’s crucial.

Explicit modeling lays it all out, puts it on record, and removes any excuse to be up and out of their seats for any other reason or in any other way.

Also, be sure and include what not to do. When you model wandering the room or bothering classmates, then these behaviors will rarely occur.

Finally, it’s important that you detail any time or times you don’t want them to be able to get up, like while you’re giving directions or providing instruction, for example.

This too must be modeled.

Narrow definitions and precise modeling are the keys to successfully allowing reasonable exceptions to your rules. They are the difference between a well-run classroom and one buzzing with overactivity.

If you’re unsure what to allow your students to do without raising their hand, consider those few things that are most requested and that don’t need your assistance.

Generally, it will be just three or four at most. Spend a half hour or so defining and modeling each one and when they are and aren’t okay to take advantage of.

After giving your students a chance to model themselves and ask clarifying questions, you’re ready to go live.

As long as you hold accountable any student who strays even a nanometer from your narrow exceptions, you’ll have a more focused and peaceful classroom.

You’ll notice fewer interruptions, fewer hands in the air, and more time to teach.

PS – If you’re a principal and would like to improve recess behavior, click here.

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6 Responses to Is It Ever Okay For Students To Leave Their Seat Without Permission?

  1. Laurie Stewart November 7, 2015 at 10:14 am #

    I have signals my students use so we know exactly what they need when raising their hand- 1 finger for bathroom, 2 for pencil, etc… It works really well!!

  2. Judy November 7, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    How I’ve solved the getting out of the seat problem is this. When the kids come in first thing in the morning, they have 5 minutes to fill up their water bottles, sharpen all the pencils, get new pencils if needed, and anything else they need to do to prepare for the morning. After that, they are not allowed to sharpen pencils for the rest of the day and if their water bottles get low or are empty by mid-day, they take them out with them at recess and lunch to refill them. They also may leave the classroom once during the day for the bathroom and must sign out. They can only leave during a work time. Otherwise, they need to go at recess and lunch. That has cut down on the getting up excuses by about 80 percent! As for tissues, they are totally allowed to get those and I find they aren’t abusing that time because I’ve already set down the expectations for work time.

  3. frustrated Principal November 7, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    Please spell out consequences for getting up to get a tissue or sharpening pencils. I have teachers who send their students out of the classroom to the office for such infractions, I would love for you to share when to relinquish authority and when it is ok to send students out of class and thus miss instruction.

  4. Judy November 8, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Hi Frustrated Principal,

    Personally, I would never send kids out of class for those infractions. For me to send a student to the office it has to be a serious infraction, such as hitting a student. For my class, if they try to sharpen their pencil when they aren’t supposed to, I just quietly say their name and point to the bins with already sharpened pencils and make them take one of those. For tissues, I have several boxes around the classroom so that they have to go to the nearest one. This keeps the “roaming” down to a minimum. If getting up and roaming is a consistent issue, I keep them in at recess and we discuss the problem and figure out how to solve it. I do have an incredibly squirrelly class this year, so I’ve spent a lot of time teaching them how to move, stretch, tap their legs, etc. without bothering those around them. It’s not a perfect system, but it has helped my sanity. Hope that helps!

  5. Randi November 26, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    I love how the best classroom management ideas are just common sense. Of course you need to model what you expect from your students, but many teachers don’t think of it. They need to see it and we shouldn’t assume they know what we mean when we say “You can only get out of your seat to get a pencil or a tissue.” When we get back from Thanksgiving break, I will make sure to model for my students.

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