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One of the greatest challenges to working effectively with students who exhibit disruptive behavior is that many of the classroom management systems or strategies used by teachers for disruptive behavior are ineffective. Teachers’ responses to disruptive behavior not only appear to result in more persistent disruptive behavior but also lead to escalating the severity of challenging behaviors. Additionally, the varying responses of the school staff are especially problematic for students with disabilities because they often work with several professionals throughout the course of the day, each with a different type of response to disruptive behavior.

Think Time Strategy

The Think Time strategy is designed to enable the teacher and student to cut off a negative social exchange or power struggle over disruptive behavior and to initiate a positive social exchange. The Think Time strategy requires teamwork between two or more teachers—the homeroom teacher and a cooperating teacher(s) who provides the designated Think Time area. Teachers prepare their class for the implementation of the strategy by actively teaching the students the steps. The primary steps in Think Time include:

  1. Catching disruptive behavior early. It is critical that teachers catch disruptive behavior early. It is also critical that teachers reduce (in the case of minor problem behavior) and eliminate (in the case of more serious disruptive behavior) threats and ultimatums as well as warnings. The communication by the teacher in both cases is limited, unemotional, and matter-of-fact.
  2. Moving to and entering the designated Think Time classroom. Students move independently to the designated Think Time classroom. Once the student arrives at the designated classroom, the student stands by the door and waits until the cooperating teacher directs the student to the designated Think Time desk. The desk is located in an area that is free from distractions and limits the ability of the student to engage the teacher or other students.
  3. Think Time/debriefing process. After the teacher has observed the student sitting in a calm manner, the cooperating teacher who initiates the de-briefing process approaches the student. The de-briefing is conducted at the convenience of the cooperating teacher and ideally after allowing the misbehaving student a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes to "think about" their behavior and to gain "self-control." Behavioral debriefing (for older students) includes the following steps in sequential order: (a) identify their inappropriate behavior; (b) identify what they need to do (replacement behavior) when they go back to work in their classroom (e.g., follow directions if they did not follow directions); and (c) indicate whether or not they think they can do the new action(s).
  4. Checking students' de-briefing responses. After the student has completed the behavioral de-briefing form, the student waits for the teacher to check if the form has been completed correctly. Behaviors are stated in objective terms; the de-briefing teacher does not know which disruptive behavior the student has exhibited at this point.
  5. Rejoining the class. When the student reenters the classroom, the student stands by the door and waits to be acknowledged by the teacher. The teacher then assesses the accuracy of the completed behavioral de-briefing form. If accurate, the teacher (in a positive manner) directs the student to join the class. Teachers use a variety of reentry procedures (e.g., peer assistance, assignment sheet) to ensure that the student is able to make up the work missed. If the de-briefing form is inaccurate, the student is directed to return to the designated classroom to repeat Think Time.
  6. Use of other consequences. Think Time is not the only response to disruptive behavior. It is used flexibly with other classroom strategies (e.g., proximity, eye contact, and consequences). Think Time in itself is a powerful enough response to most minor disruptive behaviors. However, additional contingencies such as parent contacts and response cost are established in the case of chronic disruptive behavior or challenging behavior (e.g., profanity and physical aggression).


The Think Time strategy’s effectiveness has been measured by two studies. The studies’ results are dramatic:

  • Over 1 standard deviation effect size improvement in the social adjustment, academic performance, and school survival skills of highly disruptive students;
  • 85 percent decrease in expulsions;
  • 75 percent decrease in suspensions; and
  • 45 percent decrease in emergency removals.

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