Managing Bathroom Breaks at School

I recently uploaded a new packet to TpT called: Classroom Management Made Easy! Ever since I finished this packet, I've had classroom management on my brain. I've really been reflecting on how I've done things for the last four years in my own classroom. One thing, in particular, that I'd like to share with you today is how I managed bathroom breaks at school.

Managing bathroom breaks can be tricky. If you teach younger grades then you know that kids pretty much have to go to the bathroom ALL. THE. TIME. (Maybe this is true for the older grades, too? I wouldn't know...) During the first few weeks of school, I am always reminding my students when they can go to the bathroom. They can go to the bathroom during recess (we have three at my school), lunch, before school, and after school. I am always emphasizing "GO TO THE BATHROOM DURING RECESS!" because it's their break time and they should use that time wisely. However, there are those times during class when they just gotta GO! I get it. It happens. I especially understand at the beginning of the year when a new first grader is trying to get used to being in school all day (in Utah, most Kindergartens are half day, so first grade is a big adjustment from half day to full day).  

When a student has to go to the bathroom during class time, I have a few rules:

1. It has to be an emergency! 
2. If possible, they have to go during a time that I am not giving instructions or teaching a lesson. Independent working time is best.
3. They have to put the bathroom pass on their desk (pictured below). This helps me remember where they are. It also ensures that only one boy and one girl are going to the restroom at a time. Students will most likely play and misbehave in the restrooms if you allow them to go in groups. 
4. They have to give me an emergency bathroom pass with their name on it. (More about this later...)

I purchased my bathroom passes at the dollar store and they have lasted over 4 years! They still have a lot of life in them and they are so cute. This is something you definitely don't need to spend a lot of money on. I love how Erica Bohrer used hand sanitizer (or hanitizer as my firsties called it) as her bathroom passes to make sure that her kids had clean hands after going to the bathroom. GENIUS IDEA! I've seen lots of different bathroom pass ideas on Pinterest.

Since we are on the subject of toilets, I thought I'd share this silly, yet useful, poster from a friend of mine, Brittany @ Underpaid & Over blessed! Click on the picture below to check it out and download it for free in her TpT shop.

Now it's time to tell you about the emergency bathroom passes. I heart these bathroom passes! They take all the guess work out of trying to decide if your students have to go to the restroom or not. Because that's just it-- we (teachers) can't decide when our students need to go to the bathroom, because we aren't them! We don't know! But wouldn't you love to know if your students really have to go to the bathroom or if they are just looking for a break? I have had students ask to go to the bathroom, and when I remind them that they'll need to give me a bathroom pass, they "suddenly" don't need to go anymore. They'd rather keep their passes than spend them! I also stress to my students that it's better to use up an emergency bathroom pass than wet their pants at school... they always agree!

*In my classroom, I don't start using these bathroom passes until we are a few weeks into the school year. I think students need time to adjust!*

How to use emergency bathroom passes in your classroom:

1. Give your students three emergency bathroom passes each Monday Morning (I cut the bathroom pass page into strips of three). These passes will need to last them the entire week. This is where you need to know your students, because you may have some students who truly need to use the restroom frequently and you will need to give them a few more bathroom passes each week. Be sure to be sensitive to your students' needs and make adjustments as necessary.
2. Have your students quickly (QUICKLY) write their names on all three potty passes, cut them apart, and put them away in their desks. (I make my students do this procedure quick, because bathroom passes aren't something we should be spending a lot of time on.)
3. When a student needs to use the restroom during class time, they need to follow the rules listed above and give you a bathroom pass (their name should already be on it).
4. On Fridays, right before school gets out, collect all un-used emergency bathroom passes in a bucket and draw three names, or so, from the bucket. These students will get a prize of some sort (at my school, they get to take a special note to the office and get a prize). Then,throw all the emergency bathroom passes away and start all over again on Monday. :)

At the beginning of each recess, I always stress to my students that they should go to the bathroom first thing! If I know a student is running low on bathroom passes, then I'll send them straight to the bathroom when recess starts. I also taught with a teacher who required her students to give her 2 bathroom passes if her students asked to go to the restroom RIGHT after recess. I wouldn't do this unless something like this becomes a problem. 

What if a student runs out of bathroom passes during the week and they need to use the bathroom? Well, that's up to you. Maybe they need more passes. Are they going to the bathroom at the same time everyday during class? Can you encourage them to go at recess so they won't need to go at that time anymore? Do they have a water bottle at their desk that they keep drinking (and drinking and drinking), because they are using it as a distraction and so they have to go to the bathroom a lot? There are so many things consider when implementing new bathroom procedures. Basically, just do what's best for you and your students and always make the necessary adjustments! 

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  1. I love this post! I find myself thinking about things like this too and my husband just stares at me like I'm crazy. Outsiders to the teaching world don't get how something as simple as a bathroom pass can completely change your instruction and effectives. I teach third and my kiddos need to go to the bathroom ALL THE TIME as well. I give 3 passes a weeks also, but I have 3 laminated numbered charts by my door and they "X" out their number when they use a pass (My students would lose their passes and then blame others for stealing them, it was a mess, we spent a lot of time on community building). When their number is "X"ed on all 3 laminated charts, they are done for the week. I love your idea of giving rewards for students who uses their passes wisely and have some left-over at the end of the week. I am definitely going to start doing that! I also love the idea of giving more passes to certain students. The past couple years I have had students with bladder issues that needed to go more than others, but tended to abuse the privilege. I could give them additional tickets that they could hand me in private so the other kids don't comment on the bathroom usage. Thanks for the great ideas!

    Having Class

    1. I love the door idea! That would be a great option for teachers who have a limited paper supply. :)

  2. I work in a middle school and the kids are ALWAYS asking to go to the bathroom! They have five minutes inbetween periods as the passing time and literally most of their classes are in a square (with the exception of science and maybe a language class) so it's hard for them to be late! Love the $1 store passes too..I just picked some up for my classroom at Target's $1 bin this year!

  3. I love the emergency bathroom pass idea!! I've got 25 firsties this time. We just finished our first week and whole class bathroom breaks take FOR.EV.ER!!! And then after taking them, I'm finding that they are still wanting to run in and out of the room to go to the bathroom. I can't wait to try this! :) Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Totally cute ideas and totally cute graphics. Aim for the middle made me chuckle.
    Sandra's Savvy Teaching Tips

  5. Loved this post! Thank you for sharing your ideas. I've never done passes before, but I'm thinking I may need to. Last year I had a restroom log by the door. The kids had to sign their name and write the time next to it (I kept an itouch next to the notebook- they would tap the "home" button to see the time). When they returned, they would give check their name off and write the new time. This helped at conferences when I would explain to parents how many times their child uses the restroom in a day. BUT it didn't really help with emergencies. LOVE the emergency passes! I will definitely be downloading those! Thank you!!

  6. If a child is using the passes for a break then maybe they need the break from classroom work or just the classroom (it could be overstimulating for them & the walk to & from the washroom helps them regain equilibrium). To determine if it is a break or to waste time (which is a whole other concern-why are they wasting time? Is the work beyond their skill level?) a child who uses it as a break would likely be able to focus well after they sit down again (while a time waster will dawdle-you've most likely seen that behaviour). Just a thought. So glad you are sensitive to the frequent need of others, though I'd mention it to the parents in case they were unawares of this need. Bathroom trips are always interesting-when I was little we had to raise both arms & wiggle our pointer fingers instead of asking out loud. The teacher just had to nod. I love the pass left on the desk & the one teacher who had them record the time out--I'd need both of those!

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  8. I have never thought about this struggle of teacher idol net worth Thank you for sharing.


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