Often when teachers pick their students up I say these words, “lining up is the hardest thing we do.”
And it’s true. I dislike lining up at the door because it blocks the entry for others, so we line up several feet back. It’s vague and tricky. Add in the fact that students line up for three weeks in a row and then don’t have to do it again for another 6 weeks and it’s a challenge. Generally speaking, lining up and walking in line are skills most frequently used in school. As adults we need to know the skill, but we don’t often practice it. And I think we might admit that we’re horrible at it.
In my school our students mostly line up in number order. The students know who they stand behind and in front of. Or they should. But they don’t know how much space to leave for a missing person. You’ve seen it before, the line inches closer and closer to the front. They’re like fish straining for the pinch of food you just dropped in the top of the tank.
Throw in grievances like, “I’m the line leader!”
“No, I’M the line leader!!!”
“He’s touching me!”
“Mrs. Green said I’m the line leader today! You were the line leader yesterday!”
I decided to just go ahead and mark up the floor where I want students to line up. I made 32 circles to tape to the floor. Numbers 1-30 (our class sizes run large) and two that say “Line Leader or Caboose.”
This way it doesn’t matter who gets to the line first, they will know where they stand. Everyone will have some semblance of personal space.
(Please, let it be so.)
A friend said, “I like that idea, but my students don’t all have numbers and the ones who do might lead out number 17 first so everyone is a line leader during the year.”
If your students have numbers, then the numbers will work. If the teacher wants to take out #17-25 first and then #1-16, then those kids can just step to the side and head out the door.
If you don’t use numbers as religiously as we do, then this idea can still work. What about putting colored shapes on the floor? 5 green turtles, 5 yellow stars, 5 blue whales, etc. You could match the colors or shapes to a seating chart you might have. Or, just ask students to go stand on a shape. They’ll be spaced out enough and have a sense of where to stand. You might even be able to do this with popular book covers (if you have a decent color printer!). Just print out 5 Dr. Seuss covers, 5 Scaredy Squirrel, 5 Elephant & Piggie, etc. Or color code by printing 5 Yertle the Turtle (green), 5 Green Eggs and Ham (orange), 5 One Fish Two Fish (yellow).
I’m now kind of wishing I had done that and added numbers to the pictures! Maybe next year.
One more strategy before I ask you what your favorite strategies are for lining up! In my previous school it was easier to have students line up out of the way, but near a door. We always did a seated line. There were no numbers, but we often had a line leader. The first student sat down by a post and opened his book to read and then the rest of the line followed as they finished checking out their books. This worked really well. I really dislike not being ready when the classroom teacher arrives to pick up students, but it’s hard if you have to wait for teachers who are running behind schedule. I try to have students lined up at least a minute early. A seated line makes waiting really easy because they can read and whisper about their book with their neighbors.
What are your strategies for getting students ready to go at the end of class?