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Bright note? It's Monday, and I've got another really easy management strategy for you! Quite simply, I call them "Bathroom Sticks." Go ahead, ooooh and aaahhh. Ok, you need more than the name to be impressed? Read on, my friend, read on!
Background: In the middle of giving directions, sweet Johnny raises his hand and asks to use the restroom, saying he just can't wait. Ok. Fine. Twenty minutes later, in the middle of small groups, Johnny again decides he needs to use the restroom, and "just can't wait." Again. Perhaps a questioning look ensues, and yet, I relent. Not long after, Johnny's just got to go again. Now, assuming in this situation Johnny is not sick, I'm annoyed. Like seriously, there's is nothing about an elementary school boy's bathroom that would warrant that many trips in such a short period of time.
Not your scenario? Maybe yours looks like this: Someone asks to use the restroom, and within 5 minutes, your entire class suddenly has to go, and they're all an emergency.
Management Strategy: Bathroom Sticks!
How To: Each student receives two popsicle sticks with his/her name on them and keep them on that little lip in their desks (pretty sure it's for pencils, however, we don't keep supplies in our desk.) That's it. They are allowed to use them whenever they feel necessary, but, when they're gone, they're gone. I have a bathroom stick cup, and students put their bathroom stick in the cup on their way to the bathroom. Now, obviously, there are extenuating circumstances, and for that, I say use your best judgement.
I give them to my students on the very first day of school, and it leads into a wonderful conversation about when it's ok to use the bathroom (middle of a mini-lesson vs. independent work time), how to get my attention (hand raised, with index finger showing me a "1"), and what to do with the bathroom stick.
In addition, after lunch, we stop at the bathrooms and everyone has the chance to go, whether or not they have a bathroom stick or not. I consider this a "freebie." Two bathroom sticks, plus a freebie, and I think that's more than generous for a 7 (ish) hour day.
Why it Works: The use of bathroom sticks in my classroom, has drastically reduced unnecessary trips to the bathroom. Students know to use them when they really need to, and not just to get out of class, or because Sally has gone to the bathroom (not that I let them go at the same time, but still it happens.) Students are in charge of keeping track of them. Generally, by winter break, they look a little worn, and some students have lost them. So, everyone starts fresh when they come back from the break with brand new bathroom sticks!
Try it for a week, and see if you notice any changes!
Note: It is the job of the Teacher's Assistant to pass out bathroom sticks in the morning before the bell rings.
How do you manage bathroom breaks?