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The return after a long break is a great time to revise your classroom management plan. Sure, it was a hard-fought battle to force yourself to set the alarm clock every day this week and face up to the realization that pajamas and yoga pants weren’t proper teaching attire. However, there are some shining moments in that first week back, such as a random hug from a student in the hallway, even if you are too sleep-deprived to fully appreciate them. And to assist you in your return to structured life, I’d like to share an idea (and a free download) to improve the effectiveness of your classroom management plan, more specifically, timeouts.

I realize that timeouts have been modified over the years to include many variations, names, and definitions. So, for the purpose of this blog post, I will define timeout as a consequence in which a student is removed (or removes himself) from the class activity for a brief amount of time. Some teachers employ rest areas which include items designed to calm students or encourage them to reflect on their actions. You’ve likely modified much of your consequence plan depending on your own unique situation and using your own professional judgement. Either way, I believe this idea will work in a variety of situations.


It was several years into my teaching before I realized that my timeouts didn’t seem as effective as they should have been. Though classroom management had always been my strength, I still sensed a need for improvement. So, I introduced a change in the middle of the year. Instead of telling students when they were allowed to leave timeout, I gave them the control. I told them that when they were ready to participate and follow the class rules, they could raise their hand and request permission to rejoin the class. I accompanied this with some role-playing in which I emphasized the purpose of timeout, which is to sit, breathe, reflect, and prepare to return to class. I explained that there was no right or wrong amount of time to stay in timeout. Though, students were able to point out (on their own) that a few seconds in timeout was probably not enough.

After implementing this change and going over all the details with my classes, I discovered that students were taking control of themselves as opposed to blindly reacting in the moment. Most students chose to stay in timeout for several minutes. And by the time they raised their hand and asked to rejoin the class, they were calm, collected, and prepared to learn. In addition, they fully understood that the sequential consequence after timeout would be more severe, so they were more mindful of their actions once they left timeout.Were my students always perfectly behaved after I made those changes? Of course not. But the amount of students who misbehaved after leaving timeout dramatically reduced and the attitude in which they rejoined the class was much improved. Here are the following changes and benefits I observed:

–They had a chance to calm down on their own time at their own pace

–They got the opportunity to recognize their desire to participate

–They practiced self control and patience by raising their hand and waiting for permission to rejoin the class

–I had the opportunity to welcome them back to class joyously, showing them that I appreciated their involvement and that they could start again with a clean slate

–Students appeared much happier when they rejoined class and (I believe) felt a sense of accomplishment at having self-directed their own behavior while in timeout

–The students that did end up in timeout rarely disrupted class again that day, and often times, reduced their amount of disruptions throughout the rest of the year

If you’re interested in trying out this technique (or another version of it) in your own classroom, you can download the free printable below to help you get started. I’ve included a pre-filled poster as well as a blank template for you to create your own to suit your needs.
Click on the image to download
A big thanks goes to Krista Wallden, Paula Kim Studio, Kelly B’s Clipart, and KG Fonts for the amazing graphics!
What are your thoughts on this strategy? Do you see it working in your own classroom? Please share your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!