| "There is no substitute for a good substitute teacher."
SEATWORK TIME OUTS: A New Twist on an Old Trick
"Johnny is a bright student. If only he would apply himself."
Johnny is the student whose desk is on the opposite side of the room, behind a cardboard or by the teacher's desk. He needs an extra push to stay "on task". So, he is placed in an area of the room where he is more likely to get more work done.
While this approach is still used successfully by many teachers, one variation of this approach is the seatwork time out. This is slightly different from the time out one goes to if they need to cool off after being involved in an altercation. This time out is the isolated, far away, desk behind the cardboard where there is little else to do but write your name on the cardboard hundreds of times or do your work.
Substitutes should use this form of time out when lesson plans call for "seatwork" and a student cannot begin their work because of excessive talking, interruptions, or if they are just having a bad day.
The 3-step Process can be implemented if a student has accomplished little or no work in relation to their skill level and the amount of work completed by the student's peers at the same level.
1. Send student to an isolated desk/table. Give a short deadline (5 minutes) to complete a mutually agreed upon part of an assignment (4 math problems, 2 questions, etc.)
2. If the student has accomplished the goal, set a new goal. Use a longer time limit this time (10 minutes) and add more problems to the work. (Pitch the idea of going back to their regular seat if this time they can agree to work as hard as they are in the time out area.)
3. Praise any completed work. When the student is likely to or has caught up with students at their level, give them the option of returning to their regular seat to complete remaining work. If the disruptions resume, warn them ONLY ONCE. Then, send them back with a goal to complete work in the same pattern.
The objective should always be to return the student to their seat. Never use this process as a form of standard "discipline". Refer to it as a "second chance" to get back on track.
(This article first appeared in STT, November 1995)