The Danger of Down Time in the Special Education Classroom

Down time happens in classrooms- it is impossible to avoid, but many times when there is down time- it results in problem behaviors.

Down time can be during a transition, waiting on other students to finish the work, or when waiting for a related service.

Here are some tips to avoid down time or what to do when there is down time.

Create a routine students know to do when they finish work

Routines are the best and more important way to instill independence, make your room run efficiently, and to avoid that dreaded down time. 

Some examples of routines that could be in place when students complete their work and have time are:

-silently read

-quiet fine motor activity from a tub

-look through to previous work they need to complete

-go on an iPad

Depending on your class, these will have to vary.  It also will take explicit teaching, modeling, and reteaching to have your students doing this effectively.

Have back up work that is ready to go.

Some students may finish work early because they know the material, or have their work differentiated to have fewer problems.  In this case, having early finisher work is helpful.

Task boxes are a great tool to support these early finishers.  Although they may be working on an academic skill, it is fun and engaging!


Students will be asking which game can they play next?!


Get yours here.

Play mini games while waiting.

Your perfectly planned lesson went off without a hitch, no behaviors to manage- and it resulted in ending early.  You fear the dreaded down time. So what do you do? Play a game.

Here are some examples of fun games you can do

-I Spy

-Skip counting while doing squats or jumping jacks

-Have students guess the word you are thinking and use phonological awareness cues such as it starts with, it rimes with etc.

-Fill up the category. State a category and see how many items you can list as a class. Record the number and try to beat it.

-Quiet game. Oldie but goodie- make it challenging by asking students questions. Sometimes they can’t help but answer!


If you need more behavior management tips, read ten quick and easy behavior management tips by clicking here.

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