Wednesday, August 7, 2013

28th Day: Hands-Free Passes

At our school, students are supposed to have a pass whenever they leave the room. I used to have those cute wooden painted passes, one for the girls, one for the boys, one for the library, and one for the "hall." The bathroom passes kept disappearing as year after year, kids tried to find out whether they were flush-able (apparently not, but I certainly never wanted to touch them to hang them back up!) And, since we are an outdoor school, each year there were students who inquired: "Where's the hall?"

There are two things that are certain about passes: 1) They will disappear (frequently) and 2) If there is a string, the pass will automatically be swung like a propeller! Several years ago, some teachers chose to make passes by tying yarn on a CD. I am certain that messages were sent into deep space as the sun reflected flashes of rainbow light off of those disks, or, at the very least, into the eyes of every unsuspecting teacher down the "hall."
Even in the age of hand sanitizers, I remain leery about having to touch most things handled consistently by children. At the same time, I need something that will stand up to repeated use.

And so it is, that our classroom passes evolved. Currently we have four passes: Boys, Girls, Office and School. We no longer have a nurse, and our library funding is intermittent (although we are keeping our fingers crossed for some limited access next year), but those passes have also been in use before. Each pass is a different color, so I can tell if someone is out of the room. And, yes, I have said to the class, "Where is Andrew?" {insert the name of any of the students I have panicked I have "lost"} only to have them respond with, "You sent him to..." wherever it was I (allegedly) sent him. Now, a quick look to the hooks where the passes hang will validate the student's destination--because that pass will be missing!

What makes the system work so well are these...
The student slips the pass around his/her neck and quickly makes the journey, returning to class (hopefully after washing his hands!) and returning the pass to the hook. Thankfully, you can wipe off the "plastic" passes with whatever cleaning solution is allowed at your school whenever the need arises. And, when you get suspicious, you can simply make a new one.

There are lots of cute inserts already available on TpT. I got the image of the hall pass pictured above (and there are several others with it) HERE on TpT. You can trim the pictures on the page to fit the pass to the size of the "badge." And this set has glitter accents!

Mine are decidedly less fancy, but they are color-coded and that just helps my tired little brain keep track of the kids and the passes...

I simply run off a page, cut the passes to fit, put them into the holders and attach the sting This way, I also have extra copies if/when the need arises.

Here are the bathroom passes...

And the passes worn to navigate around campus...

I use these same passes for name tags as well. My students have the privilege (and delight!) of going to instrumental once a week. The different visiting music teachers all request that the students wear name tags. These are easy to use and we keep them in a drawer by the door, to be grabbed by the line leader and distributed. Because they are white, they are easy to read, but each year I wrestle with trying to make them a different color.

Further, the students wear their tags when they are helping in the office or in the primary rooms. We have worn the tags during emergency drills (because I am usually assigned to some other task because my students are most likely, on a good day, to be able to take of themselves--with a neighbor teacher watching over them, of course). And, when requested, they wear their tags when there is a substitute in the room... and it has become a system that most substitute teachers appreciate.

I probably owe a thank you to someone at the Avery company. For years, the "strings" were made of elastic. Picture a modified slingshot, drawn down toward your knees... and then jettisoned towards your nose.. Thankfully the strings are now made of "shoelace-like" material. They don't last quite as long or stay quite as clean,, but there is much less risk of "shooting your eye out" with your name tag!

Finally, we do have a sign out system for the bathroom to keep track of the time spent out of class as part of our PBIS work. But I have a better "trick": The bathroom is within sight if I look out my window! Students know they have three minutes to return to their seats. Sometimes I set a timer--especially at the beginning of the year--so that it's clear that I am serious about missing class time. The timer is mostly for me, however, because I worry about keeping track of thirty-five kids--especially when they are not right in front of me. It also establishes a system of going to check on someone to be sure they are not ill or in need of some other assistance (moreso because we have no nurse other than our secretaries and our principal is generally the counselor!) Missing class is rarely a frequent problem, and when it is, it's time to get to the "why" of the behavior. I've always been impressed with the fact that students don't abuse the system. I think the teachers from earlier grades establish the "It must be an emergency" expectation, so I am the lucky recipient of their diligence.

What systems do you use to keep track of students? Do you have a school-wide system or one of your own?

I wonder if I am the only one who has scribbled a name on a post-it (or occasionally my hand!) to remind me that someone is missing from class...


  1. Kim,
    It's so funny that your post is about passes today, because I was on Pinterest for about an hour yesterday looking for ways to do Hall passes for my sixth graders. We get issued laminated colored paper ones that are gross by the end of the first month. I was thinking of clothespins, but was worried my kids would pinch each other with them. I teach in a middle school, so my kids wearing things around may not fly either, although I like this idea. HMMMM so many to contemplate. :) Glad to know I'm not the only 6th grade teacher thinking about this.
    Enjoy your week!

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  2. Such a great idea! I have third graders, so you can imagine how icky passes may get. I LOVE this! Thanks!

  3. Great idea! I hate the whole hall pass thing. Mostly because I've worked in schools where they are SUPER strict about everything being signed with a timestamp. I've always been rebellious about this because I think it's ridiculous to stop my instruction or small group work every time a student needs to use the bathroom. Ain't nobody got time for that!! :)

  4. Great topic. Yes hall passes seem insignificant but they can be a real issue. I have been working on this one for years. The school wanted us to sign their agenda, but ewww who wants a kid to take a paper agenda into the BR and that would require me to stop what I am doing. So I played around with items on a string. I used lids from can on a string. I thought they would put it around their necks, but nope. I laughed when I saw the comment about the CDs bc one of mine decided to shoot the lid up high into the air so that it landed into the light in the hall. I have used passes for ten years and I am not even sure if anyone ever checks the kids for a pass. I am thinking about having the kids put the pass on their desk this year, so I know who is out and then the others know not to leave while the pass is gone. The clothespins are a good idea too.

  5. That is a great idea! I always wonder how germ-y my passes are when they come back from the bathroom! Eeekk!

  6. This is actually on my to do list of things to make this school year. I have collected many holders from conferences I've been to and am ready to make one for each child. Ill have control over access and the will have to sign them out and put the analog time on them as well.

    Happy 2013-2014 school year!

    Making Each Day Count

  7. I am constantly forgetting that I sent a student out of the room. I have been known to question a kid when walking into the room, "what are you doing?" or calling Hannah, and everyone says you sent her to the nurse. Oh yeah, I forgot! I used a dry erase board at the door that the student signed their name and wrote their destination. It was a big help to me because I could just glance up at the board and remind myself who was out.

    Chalk It Up To Good Behavior


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