Walking Students in a Line {Tips for Teachers: Lining Up}

I’ve been working at my school for 10 years and yet I still appreciate the fact that it is only a one level {translation: no stairs} school.

Twice upon a time I taught in buildings that were 3 stories tall. Walking a line of kiddos up and down those flights of stairs was not fun. 

Over the years I have developed a system for putting my students into “line order.” I still would not want to walk said line up and down all those stairs again, but I think you’ll find the system to be helpful.

One of the secrets of managing a classroom is to find ways to proactively eliminate situations that may cause distraction and “issues” within the classroom. 

Kids have motives when it comes to lining up. Either they are pushing to be first in line, dwaddling to be last or else 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). They also will often arrive to pick them up at P.E., music, recess, art or wherever and are expected to walk them back to the classroom in a “hallway appropriate line.” This can be a challenge because they are typically excited and many times are clustered into groups in line with their best buddies

The first step in managing a line is to assign a consistent place in said 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 situation above. 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.

Here’s how to do it.

  • 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.
I created a free printable packet that includes the tips in this post along with 4 different pages you can use to print your class line order list onto. It would be a great addition to your teacher binder or emergency sub plans.

Check back tomorrow for tips on how to have them easily get into this line up within the classroom and strategies for managing the line in the hallway.


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