Saying NO to Whole Group Bathroom Breaks!

Before I even start this blog post I should state that I do not have a bathroom in my classroom.  Most schools in my district do not have a bathroom in the classrooms.

Now, let's talk about bathroom breaks and why I refuse to take my whole class to the bathroom for a "bathroom break."
 It wastes A LOT of instructional time.  When I used to take my whole class on a bathroom break, it would take between 10 to 15 minutes.  We would take two bathroom breaks a day.  That is a loss of almost 30 minutes of instructional time a day!
 Less behavior problems.  Ninety-nine percent of my behavior problems came from either the playground or the BATHROOM!  When there is a group of children in the bathroom it is inevitable, there will be problems.
Students don't have to go to the bathroom "on demand."  When you take your whole class to the bathroom, you are basically expecting them to go "on demand" but our bodies don't work like that.

Now that you know why I no longer take my students to the bathroom as a group you may be wondering what I do instead.

We have hand signals for a tissue, bathroom, and drink of water.  My students know to put up the amount of fingers for what they need.  I just shake my head yes or no depending on what we are doing and if it is a good time for the student to leave the classroom.

One question I always get from other teachers is "Aren't your students always asking to go?"  My answer is NO!  Because no one hears another student asking to go to the bathroom it reduces that domino effect you normally have.  All my students see is me nodding my head yes or no.  Many times the other students don't even notice me nodding.

Want my hand signal posters for free?  Just click on the image below and grab them for yourself!

How do you handle bathroom breaks with your students?  Let me know in the comments below!


  1. AMEN! Full group bathroom breaks=yuck! I stopped taking my kids as a group 2 years ago and have never looked back. We also do not have a bathroom in our room. The crazy things my kiddos pull in specials amaze me when I am the one that finds them in the hallway or bathroom (I am next to the boys bathroom). Thanks for sharing!

    A Very Curious Class

  2. I have my class put one finger for bathroom. I never thought to do it for a tissue or a drink of water! I love it. I am going to have to make a slight change so I can use your method. I pinned it however I can't print it. Could you help me out? Thanks!

  3. I haven't always take whole class bathroom breaks but I was having the opposite problem. Kids were having a very difficult time in the bathroom unsupervised. I'm hoping to go back to individual this quarter.

  4. I do the same, just different signals.

  5. I do the same, just different signals.

  6. What about the frequent flyers to the bathroom? Do you have a system for those students?

  7. Yes I totally agree about what they try and get away with (and do!) in specials!! 7 kids needing a potty break in an hour when they know they can use the classroom bathroom before or after?! hmmmmmmmmmmmmm....

  8. I have a one girl and one boy bathroom pass (lanyards) hanging on a hook by my classroom door. My kids never have to ask me to go to the bathroom--they just have to leave wearing a lanyard. So only one girl and one boy can be gone at a time. And if they misbehave at the bathroom, I remind them that using the pass and going to the bathroom on their own is a privilege and not a RIGHT. They can always loose this privilege for a period of time if necessary.

    1. I used to have my kids take the pass with them to the bathroom until I started to think about how they touch it after using the bathroom or if it dips into the toilet or ends up on the floor. Gross. Now I have them put the pass on top of their desk so I know who is out of the room. When they come back from the bathroom, they hang up the pass. No more bacteria pass.