Managing restroom breaks while teaching can be a challenge when you are working with young children! How can you get everything done during the day and meet all of the standards when you are continually stopping to send children to use the toilet? In this post, I will tell you how I teach the rules for using the restroom, and also how I manage potty breaks as well. Because when you’re doing “The Potty Dance,” it’s time to GO!
Let’s start with the basics. Children are supposed to be fully toilet trained BEFORE entering school, (assuming we are talking about children with no developmental delays.) However, we probably all have had a child that was doing the “potty dance,” but didn’t even realize it, and didn’t even seem to know that he or she needed to go! It amazes me that this can still even happen in Kindergarten AND in first grade, but YES- I have seen it with my own eyes!
AND… don’t even get me STARTED on children that expect me to wipe their bottoms after a bowel movement! I tell parents from the beginning that this would be the end of my teaching career; I am not allowed to touch their child in their private parts and I would never dream of doing so EVER. So the children MUST be independent in all areas of toileting. (Again, if it were a special needs child and it were written into the child’s IEP, that would be a different story. But in my regular education kindergarten class, the rule at our school is that if a child needs help toileting, they must go to the nurse. Teachers do not wipe students’ bottoms. ) I have had a few children decide to “just go in their pants,” telling me that they will be fine waiting for their mom to come clean them up at the end of the day, because they just NEVER wipe their own bottoms! (The last one assured me that it was quite alright! HE didn’t mind!) The problem was that WE did! Yikes- the smell was unbearable, so that plan didn’t work, obviously. I sent him to the restroom and insisted that he wipe and change into other clothes! He was very upset, poor little thing- but it didn’t happen twice.
One of my favorite songs from our Classroom Management CD/DVD is “The
Potty Dance” song, and the inspiration for it was just that- kids dancing about and holding their hands around their private parts, trying to avoid going to the bathroom. And then when you ask them if they have to go, the INSIST that they do NOT have to go! So I wrote the song to teach them this very BASIC concept! The lyrics are below. If you would like to hear the song, you can hear a bit of it on iTunes. Of course, it can be purchased on our website as well.
On a side note, one observation that I made a few years ago when I got my first iPad in the classroom was that a child playing with an iPad will NEVER need to leave to go to the bathroom. However, when children are given a lesson in phonemic awareness, they will need to go quite frequently! AND, the need to go to the bathroom during phonemic awareness lessons (or anything else that might seem less than fun to a small child) is quite contagious! If one child is given permission to go, several children will instantly need to go!
The other “potty themed song” on the Classroom Management CD/DVD is the “Potty, Potty” song. (You can listen to it on iTunes if you want; just click on the iTunes link on that page!) I have to say that again- this is just one of my favorites! It really is just a chant more than a song. I used to start my class chanting it as a student left for the restroom, just as a reminder of the bathroom rules to some of my more “playful” students. Here are the lyrics.
The little poster set that goes with this song absolutely cracks me up, too! I LOVE it! I have it posted in the little bathroom in my HeidiSongs office, because you know, I might need the reminder now and then!
Here is one tip for managing bathroom breaks in the classroom:
I taught the kids that the “Secret Signal” for when they need to go to the restroom is silently holding one finger up in the air. When I see it, I know that he or she needs to visit the restroom. If I want to give that child permission, I will silently make eye contact and nod at that child. Usually, most of the other children don’t even notice that someone was given permission to go! This really helps, because then I don’t have so many children that decide that they want to use the restroom due to seeing someone else go. My rule is, “No Potty Wanna-Bees.” You don’t get permission to go to the restroom just because you see that someone else is going. Only YOU can know if you need to go! They just have to put their finger back down and wait and ask again a little bit later- if they think of it. And they almost NEVER do! Those that really need to go will ask again.
BUT… know your students! There may be some children that cannot wait, and you will need to know who they are! I ask parents at the beginning of the year parent meeting to let me know if their child as issues being asked to wait a little bit before using the restroom.
At the beginning of the year, it can be a little difficult for children to remember to use the Secret Signal for requesting to use the restroom. I have learned that if I give permission for them to go when they ask some other way, (such as in the regular way,) they will never bother to remember the Secret Signal and the system breaks down. So if a child raises his or her hand and asks me if they can go to the bathroom, I simply ask them, “What is the Secret Signal?” I insist that they ask me again later in a few moments, using the Secret Signal (unless the child is doing the Potty Dance and it is clearly an emergency!) Once we go through this routine, and they discover that I will not allow restroom visits any other way, they all get used to it and we have no troubles.
The Secret Signal for using the restroom is VERY important to me because there are times when I will not allow the children to raise their hands to ask a question. So even if they are not allowed to stop my lesson and ask a question, they can still ask permission to use the restroom. For example, if I only have five minutes to read a short book, and someone wants to say something, I know that this will usually touch off a whole slew of comments! So I just shake my head and say, “Hands down! No questions right now!” I just insist on this until they all relent and put their hands down. You know if you let ONE child start to comment on the lesson, you have to let them ALL comment on the lesson! Then the lesson can get very long, and your group of children can get quite restless. So, disallowing questions and comments at certain times of the day is an important form of classroom management for me. AND, teaching them an alternative method of asking permission to use the restroom helps the children all avoid accidents, and it helps ME avoid the parental complaints that can come with them!
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