How to Line Up a Class - Walking Students in a Line


Kids have motives when it comes to lining up. Either they are pushing to be first in line, dawdling to be last or they are wiggling their way to be near their friends. In many schools, teachers lead their lines to places where the children remain in “line order” (assemblies, a lunch line, dismissal, etc). Teachers also arrive to pick the class up at gym, music, recess, or art and are expected to walk them back to the classroom in a “hallway appropriate line.” These times can be challenging because the students are typically excited and are often clustered into groups in line with their best buddies.



The first step in managing a line is to assign a consistent place in the line for each student. This will prevent them from running and pushing their way to the door when you say it is time to line up.  Some teachers have their kids line up alphabetically or in number order. This is a great start because it does eliminate the pushing and shoving. The benefit of lining up this way is that you can easily take attendance in the event of a fire drill.

I did this for a few years and it certainly was an improvement. However, my recommendation now is to assign spots in line strategically so that students are located next to peers who are “a good match” for them and are placed in positions which help them make positive choices. Any time they need to line up as a class they do so in “line order.” We practice this as one of our routines/procedures at the start of each year and within a few days they do it automatically without fanfare.




Start by dividing your class into three groups: friends who need assistance in making good choices, friends who always exhibit role model behavior and friends who fall in the middle.

Use your list of students who need support in making positive choices to identify the two students who need the most support. Make them your line leader and your caboose. There are several reasons for this...
  • It means they will only be next to one other peer.
  • It places them on an end of the line which is ideal if you are leading your line into an assembly because they are easily accessible on the ends.
  • It gives them a sense of purpose.
I really play up the importance of the roles of being in those positions to those students. I tell my leader that they are responsible for remembering to stop at designated places for our line to regroup. I tell my friend at the end that he/she plays an important role. Since I am not at the end of the line it is his/her responsibility to give me a thumbs up when the back of the line is quiet and ready to continue walking. That student is also responsible for shutting the lights off and shutting the door. These added tasks provide those students with a feeling of importance which turns the energy that may be used for off task behavior in the hallway and channels it into a helpful task.

Next, place another student from the list of friends who need support in the center of your line and then stagger the remaining names at equal intervals apart within the line.



Now look at your list of students who serve as peer role models. Place one behind your line leader and one in front of  your caboose. Put one if front of and one behind your student that was placed in the middle of the line. Do the same with any remaining role models and the students who you felt needed support until you’ve used up the role model students.


Finally, add in those friends who were on your third list. The decisions on where to place them should be based on who you feel they will behave most appropriately with.


Once you’ve determined the order for your line of students, you’ll want to establish a systematic method of walking. In my  classroom I call the students to line up in three different groups in the following order:
  • outside row
  • middle row
  • and inside row
The inside row lines up against the wall so I call them first. Once they are “in position” I call the middle row. The middle row lines up in front of the door next in between the outside and inside row so I call them second. The inside row then lines up closest to the main area of the classroom. 

Lining them up this way serves a few purposes.
  • They are able to walk directly to their space in line without weaving through other students.
  • When they need a reminder about the expectations for lining up I can add in a bit of friendly competition by saying I’ll be watching to see which row is best demonstrating the expected behavior.
  • Because the total length of each line is only 1/3 of the class, I don’t need to reserve the entire length of the classroom. Since lining up takes up such a small portion of the school day, I can instead place a student table there for math workshop / guided math rotations.

The expectation once they are in the hallway is that they are ALWAYS silent. They have ample opportunity to talk throughout the day. We talk a lot about the importance of respecting other learners in the building and how we can help them stay focused by not disrupting them as we go by. That has more impact than just telling them to be quiet in the hall.

To help them meet the hallway expectation I build in several stops that I refer to as “checkpoints.” At these designated spots the line stops, I glance up and down it and when it looks ready to go I give them a thumbs up and we continue. This really takes no time at all.

I always have the line stop at a corner. The reason I do this is so that I can position myself at the corner so that I can see the entire line at all times. As the last student rounds the corner I walk with them again. If a teacher walks with the line around a corner, there is going to be a span of time when several students are not in her sight.

Upon returning to the classroom, the line leader is expected to stop at the door and the line stops behind him. This step is important because it give the teacher time to catch up and prevents students from being out of her line of sight. You never want students to be unattended in the classroom.


It would be great if kids met the expectations just because they were expectations, but sometimes they need a bit of incentive. Here are two things I’ve had outstanding success with:

Class Compliments:
If my class received a compliment from another adult in the building for how well the line is working together, I added a link to our Classroom Teamwork Chain.

Secret Walker:
Before we leave the classroom I always selected a “secret walker.” I told them I would be paying extra close attention to that friend as we progressed to our destination. I made sure he faced forward, walked quietly, and kept his hands by his side. When we got to the destination I revealed the name of the secret walker. However, I only told the class who it was if the secret walker met all of the expectations for the entire walk. The kids loved this and it was highly effective.  Instead of having to single out a child to say, “turn around” or “remember to be silent in the hallway” I simply said to the entire class, “I’m checking to see if my secret walker is (facing forward, ready to walk, walking quietly, etc).”

If I was using a clip chart as a behavior system I let the secret walker “clip up.”

I also gave the child a certificate for the secret walker to bring home to show his/her family.

I gave them the entire width of the paper which includes a certificate to take home and a raffle ticket. They wrote their name on the ticket, cut the slip on the dotted line and deposited it into a container. I drew a name from the container when I needed a student or students for special tasks (i.e. helping the kindergarten class in the computer lab).

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