August 17, 2014

re it.If you lead a group of kids anywhere, they usually walk in clumps. This is fine if we’re trekking about on a field trip or headed out to the playground, but when we need to go from point A to point B in an efficient, orderly way, we need lines.

I always liked my students to be in nice, straight lines, but it wasn’t until my coworker Rachel shared her simple and brilliant idea with me that I happily and easily achieved it. She’s also the one who first shared her own graduated system of consequences with me when I first started out teaching! (THANKS, RACHEL! =D).

5 Reasons to walk in straight lines:

  1. Safety. A surprising amount of kids seem to have a hard time walking and talking at the same time. When my students walked in clumps, those were the times they ran into poles or tripped over potholes. It’s a surprisingly frequent occurrence.
  2. Preventing misbehavior. When kids walk in clumps, there are more people all around them to run into, kick, push, shove, etc. When they are in a straight line, however, even the most difficult children only have access to at most two people to annoy.
  3. Convenience. When kids walk in clumps and you have an announcement for the class, many of them have difficulty hearing you, usually because they’re too engrossed in their own conversations. When they are in a straight line, however, they have little else to pay attention to other than walking forward and/or listening to you if you have an announcement.
  4. Minimizes squabbles. If your kids are older or more mature, maybe this isn’t a problem… but in fourth grade, kids still get mad about things like cutting. If they are walking in clumps, and then I need them to line up for something, there is inevitably the rushing and elbowing and pushing and ensuing complaints, “Nathan cut!!!” This doesn’t happen if we are already in line in the first place.
  5. A more quiet and respectful class. This is especially important when walking through the hallways while other classes are in session. You don’t want your kids talking, yelling, or screaming in a way that would annoy other classes with open doors. Having your students walk in a straight line is a pretty surefire way to bring down the volume.

How to do it

Okay, you’re thinking, straight lines are nice, and my kids are mostly straight… most of the time. I don’t care that much about straight lines, so unless you have a really simple and straightforward idea…

Why, YES, I do! Rachel did! Basically, it’s “Line Tag.”

Step 1: Watch the kids as they walk in line. If anyone steps out of line, point to them and lightheartedly say, “Tag, you’re out!”

Step 2: The student that was “tagged” goes to the back of the line.

That’s it. It’s not a “you’re in trouble” kind of thing. It’s just a lighthearted, fun little game that also happens to keep your students in line. The way it usually happens for me is this: I do my cool teacher-walking-backwards-while-watching-the-class thing,* and if anyone steps out of line, I point to them, smile apologetically, and say, “Tag, you’re out.” The student points to himself in disbelief, mouthing, “ME?!” I nod an exaggeratedly sympathetic yes, and he walks to the back of the line. The other kids suppress their giggles, straighten up like little soldiers, and we carry on.

Of course some kids will play around and step out of line on purpose, just for fun. But that gets old pretty quickly and stops. If it doesn’t, a small side-chat is all it takes, “Okay it was funny the first time, but you know the whole point of this is for the class to walk in a straight line. Are you helping that?”


And that’s it. Sometimes I play around with the class and walk facing forward, acting like I’ve totally forgotten about this “game,” and then suddenly whirl around and “tag” 2-3 people out. The rest of the class gets a kick out of it, and my class is straight as a ruler as we proceed to our final destination.

Easy peasy! And it’s a simple way to spice up a boring ‘ol walk to the cafeteria, too. Try it out as you start off this new school year! The beginning is the best time to introduce this fun and simple game.

*It’s only cool if you don’t turn around and run face-first into a pole, like I did on my first day of teaching. The whole class could hear the pole vibrating, and I can still see FW and AA literally ROFL at me. #rookieteacherfail

firstdayfailP.S. Monday (tomorrow) is the last day to enter the Math Menu giveaway! 🙂


4 responses to “A Simple Game to Keep Students in a Straight Line”

  1. Debbie says:

    I love your idea. We have a song we sing to teach the children to walk in a line.

    “Put your hands where they belong; in your pocket or behind your back. Look at the head in front of you. Catch your bubble.”

    If we catch our preschool class talking, we remind them that they have a bubble in their mouth.

    I had to laugh at you walking into the pole. Sorry but I’ve done things like this too when I’m looking back.

    • joellen says:

      Hehe that sounds cute! Good tip for younger children :). I had to laugh when I walked in the pole, too =P Although my head was still throbbing haha :).

  2. Anita says:

    My class is terrible at walking in lines… I will have to give this idea a go.

    The only other remedies that have seemed to work are fun ones. I walk behind them to spot the best pair, I give the line leaders a spot to walk to and then wait for the rest to catch up.
    I also play ‘silent ninjas’ and we put our ninja masks on and walk stealthily to our destination without being seen or heard. I obviously have to teach this game and give non-examples i.e. kicking and being silly. The kids love it more when I play too, I even lift my ‘mask’ to tell them something, like if someone starts talking I tell them to put their mask back on.

    • joellen says:

      Hey, nothing wrong with making it fun! 🙂 It makes it happier for everyone– especially the teacher! =) The ninja game sounds fun! Thanks for the tip.