We believe a teacher’s response to classroom management should continually model respect.

A couple months ago we wrote in our blog how teachers often misuse the Responsive Classroom procedure of “take a break” by publicly admonishing a child to go to time out. We continued by saying that it is important to model respect even in times of conflict by quietly and calmly using this procedure.

We believe a teacher’s response to classroom management should be predictable.

The technique of “take a break” advocated by the authors of Responsive Classroom is not always practiced in a predictable way either. A teacher often barks out “take a break” based on their mood or frustration level and what frustrates a teacher one day may not on another. When this happens, the teacher response becomes unpredictable because it is predicated by the teacher’s mood.

We believe a teacher’s response to classroom management should separate the child from the child’s behavior.

Similarly, certain students (often based on the teacher’s history) frustrate teachers more quickly and they are faster to respond to these students with the words “take a break.” When a teacher is inconsistent in their use of “take a break” and bases its usage on the child, then the teacher is not separating the child from their behavior. The message delivered is that it is the child who is not acceptable not the behavior. When teachers do this they deliver the message that there are good kids and bad kids. If a student feels like they have been labeled a “bad kid,” how could he/she learn new behaviors from their teacher?

We believe a teacher’s response to classroom management should help the child reflect upon and begin to accept responsibility for their behavior.

When a teacher yells out “take a break,” the student probably won’t be sitting in the break chair thinking about his/her behavior, but is more likely thinking about the teacher!

So how can we still use the Responsive Classroom’s “take a break” procedure in a way that is more predictable, separates the behavior from the child, and helps students think about their behavior?

The answer is offering choices. When students are demonstrating continual behaviors and have not responded to the teacher’s cues (see last month’s blog), it is time to deliver a choice. The choice might sound like this: “I am having a hard time helping your classmates. Your choice is to either do your work quietly so I can help everyone or if you continue to disturb your classmates or me you will have to take a break. I hope you decide to work quietly with the class.”

At this time the teacher walks away so that the student is left thinking about what he/she is going to do, not about what the teacher is going to do. If the child continues the behavior or another disruptive behavior they are quietly sent to the “take a break” chair (predictable for all students). By first delivering a choice, teachers help students think about their behavior and make a choice regarding what they want to do. It is the thinking that will cause students to learn to accept responsibility for their own behavior.


December 1, 2009. Uncategorized.


  1. Stacey replied:

    I am wondering how you feel about ‘take a break’ if it is done in a calm tone as if to excuse the child for a brief minute where they can think about their behavior and come back and join the class when ready. Also, did you know that ‘take a break’ is also an option given to children to use at their own discretion when they feel like needing to go to a quiet place to calm down. It is not meant as a punishment, but more of a place to reflect and come back refreshed so to speak.

  2. Colleen replied:

    I believe that take a break is a great classroom management tool when used correctly. It is not meant to be a punishment but a time for students to reflect on their behavior and give them the chance to make the right choice. The student should be allowed to return when he or she is ready. I do not believe that it singles them out at all. In my classroom the students understand why it is used and will sometimes ask if they can go to take a break to calm down, I believe it is a great tool to get students managing their own behavior, however, yes it may not work for everyone like anything else.

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