A reader posted a question this week asking what to do if a student, in this case a kindergartner, crawled on the floor and under tables after being sent to time-out. Playing, straying, and not sitting quietly in time-out can happen regardless of grade level.
And this problem can be especially frustrating. It pulls the teacher away from his or her responsibilities and diverts the attention of the class away from the lesson and toward the misbehaving student.
To make matters worse, how you handle a situation like this can negatively affect the behavior of the rest of the class. More specifically, if the student in time-out gets away with behaving poorly, or is able to get under your skin, then others will follow.
These are important questions because they go straight to the heart of a teacher’s job satisfaction. The worst position to be in as a teacher is one where you feel you have no leverage, no recourse, and no options other than responding out of anger and going home stressed and discouraged.
Many teachers leave the profession because of it. And I don’t blame them. If I felt that students controlled my fate, that they decided whether I enjoyed my day or not, I’d consider another line of work too.
When a student misbehaves in time-out, it’s a blinking sign that your time-out isn’t working and won’t effectively curb misbehavior. Furthermore, it’s an act of defiance and shows a lack of concern over your consequences.
What To Do
In response to students who don’t sit quietly in time-out, there are six things you can do to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
1. Show your students a complete picture, from start to finish, of what they’re expected to do if told to go to time out. Use detailed modeling. Demonstrate how to walk to time-out, where to sit, and precisely how you expect them to spend their time there.
2. Use the “how not” strategy and be sure to include any unwanted behaviors you’ve seen from your students (i.e., crawling under tables, making loud noises, leaving the time-out chair).
3. Have them practice. Choose students “randomly,” one at a time, to show the class how to do it. Make them prove to you they understand the ins and outs of going to time-out.
4. When a particularly difficult student is sent to time-out, if at all possible, ratchet up the fun. Have a learning game or activity in your back pocket for such moments. Time-out is only effective if the student feels he or she is missing something.
5. Back up your time-out with a consequence. Think of the one thing you do as a class repeatedly, every day or every week, that your students love the most. It can be a certain lesson, game, song, story, or anything you wish. Whatever it is, missing that activity should be your consequence for not sitting quietly in time-out.
If you’re thinking, “I hate that they have to miss such a great activity. They love it so much and I feel bad taking it away from them,” then you know you’ve chosen the right one.
6. Follow through. Do what you say you will do, and do it every time.
If you discover that a student you sent to time-out isn’t sitting properly, or is otherwise not following the time-out directives, don’t overreact. Better yet, don’t react at all.
I know this is difficult to do at times, especially if the student is disrupting your class. But, at this point, it’s too late. If you try to “win the battle” by yelling, demanding, or lecturing, you’ll lose the war (so to speak).
Wait until the time-out is over and the student has settled down, and then calmly approach. Lean in and say, “Evette, because you didn’t sit quietly in time-out, you will have to miss the Jeopardy vocabulary game this afternoon.”
Don’t wait for a response. Turn and walk away.
When the time for the game or enjoyable activity arrives, show your enthusiasm for the event and allow your students to get excited. But just seconds before the start, when the room is silent, walk over to the offending student and remind her that she won’t be allowed to participate.
As you increase the interest, excitement, and enjoyment in your classroom, as well as your likability, classroom management becomes an easier proposition. Add to it an unbending commitment to accountability, and you have an unbeatable combination.
Everything you do—how you speak, the classroom environment you create, your relationship with students, and much more—affects classroom management. The entirety of how you can use these to your advantage can be found in the book Dream Class.
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