When I taught middle school in Houston ISD, everyone had bathroom passes that traveled with them to the bathroom. That way, if an administrator or teacher stopped you in the hall, they’d know you had permission to be out and about.
I’ll be honest – it grosses me out. I mean, think about where those bathroom passes are being placed? On the floor? On top of the toilet paper roll? Eww.
Here are 10 bathroom pass ideas that may work for your classroom. But I’ll begin with my favorite solution; the one that worked for my own class!
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Covid Bathroom Pass Ideas
These solutions should limit the amount of germ transmission in your class. I’ll start with my own solution, which I started doing in 2018.
The Move-Around-the-Room Pass
In my first year of teaching third grade, I learned that kids didn’t need to have a pass to be in the hallway. Because elementary school kids don’t tend to “skip class,” it’s generally understood that they’re allowed to be in the hallways. They don’t tend to escape. Having a bathroom pass at this age is more for record keeping and just knowing who is out of the room at any given moment.
My policy was that I never wanted more than one student of each gender out of the room at a time. Kids do get into shenanigans if they’re in the bathroom together during class. Elementary school kids tend to splash and play in the sinks, or worst case scenario, spread yuck on the walls or write misspelled graffiti.
I got two plastic pigs – one pink for girls and one blue for boys. I know – some of y’all are highly annoyed with my gender norming, and that’s a fair criticism.
I only chose the pigs because I found them at Five Below and they were plastic for easy cleaning. There are similar ones on Amazon, but really anything will do! Anything that can be easily Lysol sprayed and makes the kids smile will do the trick.
You’re looking for durable, easy to clean, and something happy looking. In fact, my pigs even oinked when you squeezed them. At first, I worried that would be a big mistake. But honestly, they oinked them so often that the noise maker broke in the first few weeks, and the problem solved itself.
Anyway, this kind of bathroom pass always stays in the room. After every class, I’d do a quick spritz with the Lysol spray to minimize germs across classrooms.
The highlights of my policy were as follows:
- Only one boy and one girl allowed out at a time.
- You may use the pass only during independent work time – when I’m not doing direct teaching.
- No running to grab the pass. No fighting over it.
- No asking me to go to the bathroom.
- If you have a legitimate reason to go potty twice in one class period, come ask me about it (in case we need to send you to the nurse).
- When you decide to go to the bathroom, put the appropriate pig on your desk or work station. Girls could only use the pink pig and boys could only use the blue one. That helped me ensure only one kid of each gender would be out of the room at a time.
- Putting it on their desk makes it easy for me to quickly glance around and see who is in the bathroom. Empty desk+plastic pig=bathroom break.
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The Hand Sanitizer Pass
We all know that some kids go into the bathroom, do their business, and saunter right out like their hands aren’t nasty. Some kids just DO NOT WASH HANDS. And since we’re not in there with them, who’s to say what the heck happens!?
The hand sanitizer pass stays on the desk just like the piggies. It could also leave the room, if your administrative team requires proof that kids have been released from class.
When kids return, they’ll be expected to use a pump of hand sanitizer, so we can be certain SOME degree of cleanliness is happening.
Elementary School Bathroom Pass Ideas
I especially like this idea from First Grade Fancy, who attempts to limit her students to two bathroom passes a day with a popsicle stick method.
Each student receives a stick for both the morning pass bucket and the afternoon pass bucket. They remain in the bucket until they need to use a bathroom pass. At that time, they move their popsicle stick to the multi-purpose behavior management pocket chart she uses.
This next idea is perfect for elementary school teachers who use a number system for students. This allows multiple classes to use the same board.
All it takes is a cookie sheet, decorated with Washi tape, and a bunch of numbered magnets to represent students. You can keep track of where they are at all times. Students take responsibility for moving their magnet to the correct zone on the cookie sheet, which is mounted to the wall.
This system doesn’t allow you to limit students’ trips out of the room; it just serves as a quick way to figure out who is missing at any time.
Here’s another great execution of the bathroom pass concept! A Primary Owl discovered that clips work well for her students. Bonus – it also keeps the bathroom passes a bit cleaner since they won’t be placed on a dirty surface.
She put them all on a ribbon, which was attached to clips on her filing cabinet.
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High School Bathroom Pass Ideas
If you teach older students who have frequent passing period opportunities to use the bathroom, you may need a different approach to manage time spent out of the classroom. Here are some ideas I found.
Tools for Teaching Teens has a hole punchable card that allows students two trips per grading period. She does make allowances for true emergencies and students with special health concerns.
Finally, if you’re looking for more of a system than a bathroom PASS idea, Teaching ELA with Joy has a no-frills, super efficient (and effective!) method. She uses a roster on a clipboard, and gives students three passes per grading period. She even got her teaching team on the same system so that their policy was consistent across all classes!
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