Use Take a Break to Keep Students Learning

Students quickly recenter and adjust their behavior with take a break.

Developmental Designs practitioners comment on implementing and maintaining take a break

For Middle Level

Take a break (TAB) is a redirection that allows students to regain composure and self-control by moving a short distance away from the class for a few moments. The TAB location is a designated quiet space, close enough to the activity that the student is not isolated. TAB can be teacher-directed or student-directed. The goal is for students to learn to recognize when they are losing focus and get themselves back on track. The message students receive is: "We are working together to make sure everything we do aligns with our social contract. When anyone slips, I'll use Take a Break or another redirection cue to alert you to the fact that you've crossed the line; after that, it's up to you to quickly regulate yourself. After the cue, you are in control of things."  

Tara Thukral, Dean of Students and former fifth grade teacher at Valley View Elementary School , Columbia Heights, Minnesota, and Developmental Designs facilitator

What if students appear to want to go to TAB? How can you get students to stop using TAB as a hangout?
 
If many students are doing this, then I remodel TAB and emphasize why TAB is there. I create that buyin so students understand the purpose of it. If only a few are doing it, I may conference with those students to discuss the purpose.

How do I know if I'm over-using/under- using TAB?
By observation. Watch and reflect after each class about whom you sent to TAB, how many times you used it, and why. Be sure you use TAB equitably-notice everything! If you have many students taking TAB at the same time, reflect on the environment and your teaching to see what needs of the students you're not meeting, then adjust your instruction or include more activity to meet their needs.

Scott Tyink, Origins Developmental Designs consultant

What if a student repeats the same mistake after returning from TAB?
Tell the student to take a break again; call him back when you decide that he's ready. In other words, the student loses the privilege of determining for himself when the break is over. This may include a brief exchange with the student about whether he is able to return and not repeat the rule breaking.

What if students appear to want to go to TAB? How can you get students to stop using TAB as a hangout?
The student loses the privilege of TAB and is sent directly to the office, where office staff, rather than the student, is in control. Later, I would remind the student of the purpose of TAB. The next time she must take a break I would provide a sand timer to limit her break time to one or two minutes. She loses the privilege of managing herself until she can re-establish her capacity to do so responsibly.

What if students are turning TAB into a joke, not working to shift their behavior?
Work to gain student endorsement of the process:

• Share a personal story so students see how TAB can help them as it helped you. I usually share my "man cave" garage in which I have a red stool where I like to go and sit when I need a break.
• Let them name the break spot and add a few decorations.
• Supply the metaphor of coaching and penalties: in order for us all to play by the rules, we must have a place to go when we commit an infraction (the dugout, bench, penalty box, etc.).
• Take a break yourself so kids see you value it. Make sure all students get a chance, not just the "frequent flyers." When they see it's for everyone, they'll endorse it more.

How do I know if I'm over-using/under-using TAB?
If you go home exhausted and annoyed every day because of the small behaviors that wear you down, you need more TAB. If it's common for more than three students to be in TAB at one time in your room, you are likely overusing TAB.

Matthew Christen, former eighth grade teacher and Developmental Designs facilitator

What if students appear to want to go to TAB? How can you get students to stop using TAB as a hangout?
Anytime I find this to be the case, it usually means the student does not understand the use of the TAB chair and some remodeling and reminding needs to take place. Otherwise, students are taking advantage of the privilege of TAB in order to avoid work, and some loss of privilege might be in order, or perhaps a conference that individually deals with what is going on. Most eighth graders are quite aware of what they are doing, and your acknowledgement of that may be all that is needed to curb "hanging out."

What if students are turning TAB into a joke, not working to shift their behavior?
This is an indicator that the TAB procedures and purpose have not been properly established. A quick conference or problem-solving meeting can help. On a few occasions I have witnessed a student's making light of the TAB chair as a compensation technique to save face with peers. Some eighth graders like to "fly under the radar," and anything that brings attention to them will get a negative reaction.    

 

Related Topics: 
Rule Breaking