Why We’re Forever Fans of the “Nothing Note”
Have you ever heard of a nothing note? The idea is simple: If a student needs a break from the classroom, send them on walk to drop off a “nothing note” to the office or another teacher’s classroom. The note itself has no real meaning, but the strategy is meant to help the student clear their head and take a brain break during the walk.
This strategy is officially called antiseptic bouncing. When noticing behavior that may lead to overstimulated emotions or off-task actions, give the student a reason to leave the classroom for a few minutes.
A walk with a nothing note can help students:
- Refocus when returning to the classroom.
- Get a brain break.
- Take a breather after being frustrated.
- Calm overstimulated emotions.
- Feel less overwhelmed.
- Diffuse conflict between classmates.
Image source: @wonderingwithmrswatto
Having a ready-to-go envelope is convenient, or you can write a quick hello on a sticky note to send along with the student. You may want to choose a colored envelope for which all teachers will know the purpose.
Middle school teacher Jillian Watto shared with us how the nothing note helps her students.
After students return from dropping off the note, they are more positive and productive. I am very strategic with the staff members who receive the note. Someone such as our friendly school counseling secretary or our school nurse, who welcomes student conversations in her office, are great recipients of the note. The positive interactions make a ripple effect into the classroom. Students are also more focused on their work when they return because they have released some energy and now can be redirected in a positive manner. For teachers, it also allows them to “reset” relationships by thanking students for helping with a task.
Students get excited to deliver a note.
This teacher also shared a TikTok capturing the excitement of students when they get to take a walk with a note, making this a positive task.
Class time is important, but using this strategy when appropriate can be very effective in keeping students refreshed and focused. Mrs. Watto also told us, “The nothing note is designed to be a positive strategy that is just one tool in a teacher’s toolbox. It’s always best to have multiple strategies on hand. In the past, I would spend time writing new notes each time, so I decided to laminate my own little jingle for future use. Now, I can quickly place the letter in the envelope and send the student on their mission!”
Have you tried this strategy in your classroom?
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Excerpted from “Teaching Math to English Learners” by Adrian Mendoza with Tina Beene. Published by Seidlitz Education, 2022. Embracing…