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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