These Two Kids Who Won’t Line Up Are Driving Me Crazy

Lining up can be a teacher’s worst nightmare.  Kids suddenly have important conversations they need to carry on with every other kid in the room.  Some students take this as an opportunity to push or even hit other students, sometimes simply because they are trying to get the same place in line.  Some students take forever to get in line because they want to get things from their desks or backpacks or jacket pockets.

So What’s The Problem?

The problem with lining up comes when procedures aren’t established ahead of time.  And we really can’t blame the kids.  When a teacher just says “line up” and the kids go crazy because they don’t know exactly what to do, that’s not their fault.  The kid who is still trying to retrieve something from their backpack 5 minutes later doesn’t even realize that they aren’t doing the right thing.

Use procedures to plan how you will line up.  If you want the experience to go smoothly, you’ll need to think of everything in your procedures.

Where Do You WANT a Line?

Kristen Smith at A Day in First Grade blog reminds us to even think about exactly where we want the line to be.  She suggests to use painter’s tape on the floor for the first few weeks of school to mark exactly where the kids are supposed to stand.  After a few weeks, they’ll know and the tape can be removed.  If your tile or carpet has natural lines in it, you can use those lines instead; but the point is to make sure kids aren’t having to guess where you want them to line up within a general area.

Don’t Just Scream “LINE UP”

Think about how you want your students to get to the line.  If you simply say, “line up”, in most instances, the kids will all run into each other in their mad dash to be the first one in line.  Some teachers call students by rows or tables, alternating the order each day or week so that all students have the chance to be near the front.  Some teachers call out descriptions and students who match the description can go line up.   Whatever procedure you use, make sure students are aware of it from the first day of school and continue to review it throughout the year.  Don’t allow students to do it differently because then they learn that the procedure doesn’t really matter even though you said it did.

Using Music

One contributor at The Teacher’s Corner suggested allowing students line up while different classical music is playing.  By making the students aware of the different composers, this will also expose them to classical music knowledge.

If you use songs or chants to let the students line up, you might want to establish a procedure that when the song or chant is finished, the students should all be in line.  For the first few days of school, give a very small reward (maybe a sticker) to the students who were in line when the song was finished.  After the first few weeks, continue to randomly give rewards in a way that they never know when to expect the reward, but also continue to review the procedure.  If they aren’t finishing by the time the song or chant is done, have them do it again for more practice.

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Thank you to Maillet for the creative image.

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