Why Time-Out Must Be Taught Smart Classroom Management

You don’t have to call it time-out. You can call it time away, reflection time, or anything you like. The name is unimportant.

But what is important, critically, is that it must be taught.

It must be explained in detail, modeled explicitly, and practiced until students know every step of the time-out process. This includes precisely . . .

1. The meaning of time-out.

2. What you will say to signal them to go to time-out.

3. How to go to time-out and what they must take with them.

4. What they’re allowed and not allowed to do in time-out.

5. What it means to reflect on misbehavior.

6. The conditions they must meet to leave time-out.

7. What you will say to invite them back to their seat and part of the class in good standing.

There are three reasons why you must be so you’re clear and detailed.

1. It limits disruption.

Done right, sending a student to time-out should be seamless and virtually unnoticeable to the rest of the class. A quick word or signal from you and then you’re immediately back to teaching.

This keeps the focus on academics, where it needs to remain from opening bell to dismissal—which in turn helps further tamp down misbehavior.

And because the whole class understands the ins and outs of time-out, and what exactly constitutes breaking rules, they have no reason to butt in and comment or give their two cents.

2. It eliminates debate.

Here at SCM, we believe in transparently laying all our cards out on the table and making sure students know every aspect of our classroom management plan. There should be no secrets, no additional lectures or talking-tos, and no gray areas.

When students know where the line is that when crossed triggers a consequence, and they’re held accountable 100 percent of the time, then there is little reason to argue. It’s fruitless.

You refuse to argue anyway and simply let your plan and its detailed parameters do the dirty work for you. The result is that students go to time-out to do their time without delay or resistance.

3. It ensures effectiveness.

When your students know, and prove they know, your rules beyond a shadow of a doubt, then they also know the second they’ve transgressed them. They feel it like a dog with a shock collar easing over an electric fence.

They expect your stock response, which comes like light after a flipped switch.

And when students know, when they have the A to Z handbook of classroom dos and don’ts, as well as their whys, embedded in their cerebral cortex, then they naturally reflect on their misbehavior. They accept responsibility. They resolve privately no to make the same mistake again.

99 Percent

The upshot is that if you teach time-out in detail, leaving nothing to chance and no stone unturned, and combine it with consistent follow through, then time-out will work as it should.

99 percent of teachers don’t do it.

And they wonder why they have students refusing to go to time-out, crying and yelling in time-out, and complaining to their parents that they’re being unfairly picked on by their teacher.

You must teach in excruciating detail, test your students’ understanding, and make them prove to they “got it” before ever putting into practice. Beginning of the year is best, of course. The next best time, however, is right now.

Knock it out. Get it done. And then get on with peaceful teaching.





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