Introducing Time-Out to Older Students

A few weeks ago, on the RC discussion board on Facebook, Aimee Casale asked for suggestions for introducing Take a Break (also called Positive Time-Out) to students in the upper elementary grades. I answered her there, and I wanted to share what I said to her with you, as well:

Aimee wrote:

This will be my first year using RC and my first year in 6th grade. Anyone have suggestions on how to use the Take a Break with this age group?

Here’s my response:

I used Take a Break successfully with fifth graders for years . . . sixth grade won’t be much different. Just make sure that it doesn’t feel like a “little kid thing,” and you’ll be fine. You might consider using the sort of introduction I used with fifth graders when talking about the Take a Break chair:

“Picture yourself playing in a basketball game, and your team is losing focus. You’re making sloppy passes, you’re taking wild shots, etc. What does the coach do? He or she blows the whistle and calls, ‘Time out!’ It’s a quick break from the action . . . just enough time for the coach to get you refocused and ready to play well. For instance, the coach might say, ‘Come on everyone. Look for the open player. Take smart shots. Keep your eye on the ball. Now get back out there!’ That’s what our Take a Break chair is all about. It’s a chance to get refocused so we can get back into the game.”

Remember, though, Aimee, there are some things to set up first, before your introduce Take a Break. Do Hopes and Dreams and establish class rules first so that Take a Break chair is clearly connected to following the rules you’ve created as a class. If you do this carefully, sixth graders will especially appreciate the way the Take a Break chair is your way of helping them stick to their rules.

Also, once you start using Take a Break, make sure you use it for all students who need to a chance to regain their self-control. It’s got to be for the girls whispering on the side, just like it’s for the boys jostling each other in the circle. Sixth graders may rebel quickly if they see your use of Take a Break as unfair or if it seems as if its only for a few challenging classmates.

Good luck!

Mike Anderson is a Responsive Classroom consultant and author of several books, including three in the What Every Teacher Needs to Know series.

Tags: 6th Grade, Time-Out