Downtime is often very difficult for students to manage independently without increasing behaviors. Here are tips on recognizing why downtime happens, how to prevent it and how to manage it.
What is downtime
Downtime is a period of time without structure or a planned activity. There are lots of reasons why downtime occurs in our classrooms. Here are a few reasons that are common….
- We weren’t fully prepared for the lesson, activity or time of day
- The activity finished earlier than we expected
- Everything came to a stop because of a behavior that staff need to address
- The classroom is short staffed
- Unexpected interruption… fire drill, assembly, meeting, etc.
Why downtime needs to be reduced
It’s important to reduce downtime in all classrooms, but it’s especially important in special education programs. Many of our students don’t know how to fill the unstructured time in appropriate ways which leads to an increase in behaviors. The increased behaviors can be very overstimulating for other students which leads to even more behavior and dysregulation. The snowball effect makes it so much harder to refocus our students… so let’s just decrease the downtime!
Ways to reduce downtime
- Over plan activities and lessons. Read more about lesson planning HERE and scheduling HERE.
- Have a bin of hands on tasks ready at all times. Make sure the tasks are things your students can complete with little or no adult assistance.
- Have an activity that you can do as a whole group ready to be used at any time. Read about easy ELA activities you could use HERE.
- Adapted books (which can reinforce almost any skill and concept!)
- Task cards
- Building with legos- included pictures of items for students to build
- Sensory materials such as playdoh, kinetic sand, etc.
- File folders
- Digital task cards and activities
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