Classroom Management Part 4: Silent Signals


When I started working at Bricolage Academy this year, I walked into many “systems” and structures that were already set up as part of this charter school and how it runs. One of these systems is how the students ask to go to the bathroom, get water, get tissues, or get materials.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking, but what about the kids learning and using that classic Señor Wooly song we all love… “¿Maestr@ puedo ir al baño?!” but let’s be honest… as much as we love that song….is it not the most IRRITATING thing when you are in true flow, asking students questions and you call on a raised hand and everything stops suddenly because that student says “Maestra, puedo ir al baño”???!!!?!?!… then it starts a snowball effect too and student after student suddenly realizes they’re about to pee their pants too! Sigh….

I am pretty lucky because for the most part, students don’t ask to go to the bathroom in my class because they don’t want to miss anything “funny” but I love that now I have a system where they can ask silently and if I am doing a good job with management of my class most students won’t even realize I’ve dismissed someone to go to the bathroom! Jon Cowart does something similar in his classes, and when he spoke about it in his Comprehensible Online session I realized I hadn’t blogged about this yet! Isla is going to model these for you since I am still on maternity leave! YAY!


If a student has to go to the bathroom, they just put their index finger in the air (like Isla in the photo above). They don’t say anything, they just raise their index finger. Then with just a nod of my head  (towards the door) and a quick glance at them they know they can silently get up and leave. Obviously, the expectation of leaving silently is established at the beginning of the year and it is also an expectation that they close the door quietly too.

If they need water, they signal with two fingers. If they need a tissue three fingers. Extra materials they raise 4, and 5 fingers (a traditional hand in the air) means they have a question or they’re contributing to the class discussion. Now, personally in my class, I don’t ask that they raise 3 fingers for tissue, I ask students to just get up and get a tissue when they need one, and it is RARE students ever have to raise their hand for extra “materials” because when we are using paper/pencils/crayons, they’re all usually passed out at once.

This is such a simple structure, that for the most part I walked into, and I didn’t have to take too much time to teach them, but it is something that has really transformed the way my class flows… no more annoying interruptions. Every now and then students have the opportunity to ask for the bathroom outside of class and then obviously, they don’t skip a beat and ask me in Spanish with a cheeky grin as they sing to the tune of the Wooly classic.

Just a reminder to periodically check my Upcoming Conferences/Trainings tab because I am constantly adding new workshops and events like this one in New York this summer!

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Also, just three more days to be entered into the raffle for awesome prizes from ME when you join my email list! (you can always join after March 31st, but why not sign up before then!?) Here are the newsletters I’ve sent since I started! They’re always different from my blogs and I promise I won’t overwhelm you ;0)

Until next time,



La Maestra Loca

Presenting at SCOLT! SO fun!

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