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Pause Button- Behavior Management Tool · Mrs. P’s Specialties


It can be hard for kids to stop using a favorite item, end a fun activity, or move on from something they haven’t finished yet, even when we pre-set them. Asking them to do so can often lead to behaviors, non-compliance, arguments, and wasted time… Enter the Pause Button! This little square is one of the most powerful visual tools I have ever used in my classroom.

Pause Button- Behavior Management Tool · Mrs. P's Specialties

The pause button is simply a laminated square piece of paper, with a black circle on it, with two black lines inside the circle. It looks just like the pause button on a dvd player. The ones we use in my classroom are about 3” by 3” and there is one on each student’s desk. We also keep extra pause buttons attached by Velcro to walls and cabinets around the room for quick access by students and adults.

Why use a pause button

Pause buttons are something most students are familiar with from using electronics at home and in previous classrooms. They understand that this button temporarily stops the activity without changing it or taking it away.

The idea behind the visual is that students are simply “pausing” whatever it is that they are doing. They don’t have to put anything away or worry about someone else taking it. They can just put a pause button on it and go on to the next activity, knowing it will be waiting for them when they return.

There is no power struggle, no arguing or trying to convince them that it’s time to stop what they are doing. Hand them the pause button and watch them move on; it really can be that simple!

Teaching students to use the pause button

Students watch YouTube videos and play video games that have a pause feature often, so it’s something they are usually familiar with. That said, we do take the time to teach them how the pause button works before we try to use it with them to make sure they have a good understanding of it.

We explain that when they place the visual on an activity, the computer, etc., they are telling it to wait for them to come back. The activity isn’t over, they are just taking a break and then they can come back to it. They also know that by pausing something they don’t have to worry about anyone else taking it or using it. It is amazing to watch a student who normally struggles with ending an activity put a pause button on it and move right on to whatever is next!

Improve Transitions

Transitions can be very challenging for our students. Often time, this is where my students need more supports and visuals. Here are some examples of the power of the pause button…

  • A student earns drawing time after math centers, but doesn’t finish the drawing he’s working on. He can put his pause button on top of his drawing and go on to the reading center, knowing that when he earns in reading, his drawing and supplies will be there waiting for him when he comes back.
  • A student is working on a puzzle during fine motor time and isn’t able to complete it before it’s time to go to P.E. She can put a pause button on her puzzle and finish working on it during free choice at the end of the day. She doesn’t have to start it all over again because her pause button “holds” it for her.

It is so reassuring to the students to know that they will be able to finish something, or come back to a preferred item, later. The pause button is a powerful visual tool that you should consider adding to your classroom.

Want to get started right away? Click the button below to download a set of pause buttons.

This visual has saved us from meltdowns, behaviors, and wasted time over and over again. It can be used in so many different situations, and once a student realizes that they can simply pause things, they will transition with ease… even away from their favorite reinforcers.

Read more tips for improving behavior management and using visuals:

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