Using Time-Out Effectively in the Classroom: Strategies & Procedures

Instructor: Cirrelia Thaxton

Cirrelia is an educator who has taught K-12 and has a doctorate in education.

When disciplining students, educators often employ strategies that help improve classroom environment in a learning-conducive manner, like time-out, a method of controlling inattentive behavior. Knowing these strategies and their steps is essential for effective classroom management.

Defining Time-Out

Even in supportive and responsive classrooms, educators often face dilemmas in which misbehaving students disrupt the class. In these situations, teachers must regain control of their classrooms by using constructive strategies like time-out, an intervention eliciting behavior change. Time-out involves specific guidelines and procedures for best practices, which remove students from sources of positive reinforcement. Unlike punishment, time-out is proactive as it does not compromise students' dignity. In this lesson, you will learn the three main strategies for administering time-out procedures based on successful classroom management.

A Student in Time-out

Time-Out Strategies


The first strategy of importance is nonexclusionary time-out. During this method, the child being disciplined remains in the setting (e.g., at his or her desk) with others but does not interact with them. At the same time, the teacher directs the other students to disregard the student until he or she can demonstrate appropriate behaviors. Once the student's behavior improves, the class can give social reinforcement in the form of attention. For example, if a student constantly acts out during a teacher's lecture, the teacher can give the child a nonexclusionary time-out, directing him or her to remain seated and not participate in class discussion until called on at the end of the time-out period. Consequently, the child observes the appropriate demeanor of classmates who ignore his or her inappropriate behavior until it ceases.


The second strategy to consider is time-out by exclusion. This method entails that a student must leave the setting where he or she showed inappropriate behavior. In this way, the student can observe what is taking places in class from a distance and model the on-task behaviors of his or her classmates. An example of exclusion would be if a teacher tells a student to leave his or her desk and go to another section of the room. This placement helps other students to stay on task and avoid any prolonged disruption caused by the child who is behaving badly. Most teachers require students in exclusion to do class assignments at time-out desks where they can focus on being efficient.


Teachers should utilize the third strategy of isolation less often. In this method, the teacher completely removes the student from the setting and places him or her in a different location, such as a supervised time-out room. This room or space must be safe and have certain accommodations, including proper dimensions, adequate lighting, and good ventilation. Moreover, the minimum duration of isolation should be 15 minutes, and the maximum duration should be 1 hour. For instance, many teachers opt to send misbehaving students to fellow teachers' rooms where the students are expected to sit and do classwork quietly.

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