How To: Get students to line up quickly and quietly

How to: Get students to line up quickly and quietly

Ever had one of those moments when you see another class lined up perfectly straight, quiet and attentive while yours run riot in the hallway? Truth is I think we all have, and its easy to want to scream and shout at them asking ‘Why can’t you be nice like that class?!’ however, don’t despair – it’s actually easier to fix than you might think.

You see the key to the lovely, quiet, orderly class is actually consistency – I know, I’ve mentioned that before…here.  But there is good reason for bringing it up again (and again).  It’s true.  So here’s my ‘How to’ guide for lining students up (of almost any age … you’re on your own with the under 3’s!).

Step One: Set Your Expectations

Decide exactly what your line should be like (this is really important because you want to avoid going back to change it later), ask yourself these questions:

  • Where will they be lining up?
  • In what order?
  • How do you want them behaved? (I go for silent, still and listening for the next instruction)

Step Two: Communicate Your Expectations

Sit the whole class down and tell them exactly what you expect, as much as possible, make sure everyone in the room understands every detail. If you have a teaching assistant make sure they are present for this conversation.

Step Three: How Will We Know We Have Succeeded? 

While everyone is sitting down and listening go over these few things:

  • Tell them you are going to silently use hand signals to communicate with them.
  • If it is going well you will give them a thumbs up when (and only when) you reach your intended destination
  • If anything at all, no matter how small, is wrong you will show them a clear sign for ‘stop’ and then ‘go back’ – if this happens everyone returns to the classroom (or wherever you started)
  • Make it very clear that this will happen every time until it is done right.

Step Four: Practice Time

Once you have explained everything carefully it is time to practice.  This is only going to work if you stick to the rules. This means that as your class begin to line up you must (silently, using hand signals) stop them and send them back for even the smallest error.  One kid whispers and we all go back.  One person if paying attention and we all go back. If someone talks before we’re lined up we all go back.  If they talk 2cm from the destination we all go back. This needs to happen every time it usually takes at least 10 attempts, my record so far is 23. Don’t speak, don’t react; just use the silent hand signals to return everyone to the classroom.

Step Five: Stick To It!

Now you’ve done it once do not deviate.  Every time you line up follow the same procedure and rules – it will get easier with practice.  This is where consistency is key – if you break the rules once you’re going to lose all that progress completely. The more you and your students practice the better it will get and the less involved you will need to be.

I’d recommend doing this as early in the year as possible (I do it in the first week) and leaving plenty of time to get it right.  It’s tough sometimes to justify spending 20 minutes practicing lining up, but look at it this way. If you can line your class up in 1 minute every time rather than 5 you’ll save 4 minutes a time.  Say you line up, conservatively, 5 times a day.  You’re saving 20 minutes a day, every day for the rest of the year.


How To: Incorporate More Games into Your Lessons

As teachers we all know the tremendous benefits of using games for learning; however it is so easy in the middle of a busy week, term or year to lose track of their importance and neglect to include as many as you would like to. In this post I’ll be discussing a few tips and ideas to build educational games into your lessons on a regular basis to maximise their impact.

Build up a good stock list of games

There’s nothing more discouraging for your students than seeing the same 3 games over and over again.  That’s not to say that repetition isn’t valuable – it absolutely is.  However variety is also really important and so having a great bank of games to draw upon (and circle back to when the time is right) through the whole year is crucial.  Check out Pinterest for an easy way to search for ideas, or even my earlier series on Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy.

Organise your games

Once you have a great set of games all prepared and ready to go make sure to keep them organised.  Critically, make sure its an organisation system that your students can use independently.  I’ve used some little stacks of tray, simple boxes, ziplock bags and more – you know your games and your students best so choose something that works with both.

Make games a regular session in your core lessons

The easiest way to build a good habit is to build it into your routine.  I specifically have a Maths games session twice a week in my maths class.  I also link some games to my Daily 5 sessions for ELA (e.g. Vocab Rock n Roll for Word Work). This also helps your students to understand and value the role of play in learning – at all ages!

Discuss the games with your class

Listen and respond to their feedback.  If they are telling you they love a game you can include it more, if they dislike it find out why.  It could be too easy, too hard, too short or too long, or maybe they’ve just not quite got the hang of it …or, without wanting to be too harsh, maybe its just not a good enough game.

Reflecting is incredibly important as a teacher and including your students in the process can increase its value even further – not least because they see you modelling this behaviour.

Get involved

Play the games with your class! I cannot stress this enough: it shows the students the high value of the games, it ensures they have understood how to play, its great for your relationship building with students, you can scaffold weaker students more easily, you can informally assess progress AND its fun! Need I say anymore? This doesn’t mean I play every round of every game with every group (I can’t be in that many places and they need to play without me for a whole host of developmental and educational reasons) but I make sure to play with each student (often in groups) at least once a week.  Sometimes that’s only for a short game, but that connection is still remarkable valuable.

If you follow these simple steps you’ll soon find that your class LOVES to play a whole range of games and that this ensures they get much more practice of some of those vital ideas and skills.

See you again soon!


Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy

Great Games Part Three: No resources needed

For the final part of this mini-series I’m going to look at a handful of games that hit a number of great criteria:

  • They help students to learn or practice something important
  • They are fun and engaging
  • They require nothing (or at least, very little!)

These games are great to have ready for those moments when a quick review is needed, or you want to take a quick break from a lesson without losing your class’ momentum.  There are so many others out there such as 20 questions, Pictionary, hangman, etc. but I’ve tried to include a few lesser known games that I actually play much more frequently than these.


This classic English game is great for practicing spelling and the random chance involves makes it great for whole class activities as well as small groups. Instructions:

  • Sit your students in a circle if possible as this makes keeping the order of the game easiest
  • Choose a word to spell that is right for your class/group, in this example I’ll use ‘hat’
  • The first child says ‘h’, the second says ‘a’, the third ‘t’
  • If a child says the wrong letter they are out
  • After the word is finished the next student shouts ‘sparkle’ and the person after them is out of the game!
  • You continue with a new word until eventually everyone is out and you have a winner.

Slap Count

This simple math game is great for practicing multiplication skills (count by 2’s, 5’s, etc.) but can be adapted for counting money amounts, fractions, decimals and more.

  • Sit students cross-legged in a circle with their hands on their knees, palms up.
  • Their hand should then rest on top of the hand of the person to their right, and under the hand of the person to their left.
  • After choosing a counting pattern, let’s say ‘plus 2’ one child begins with 0
  • As they say the number they (gently) slap the hand of the person to their left
  • The next child says the next number in the pattern e.g. ‘2’, then ‘4’, etc. and slaps the hand of the next child and so on

I set a target number to reach, and (once we’ve practiced a few times) a time to reach it in to make it even more exciting!

Math Ladder

This one does need paper and a pen (sorry!) but is great for practicing maths facts and easily adapted for vocabulary:

  • On a few pieces of paper write out some maths problems for your class (e.g. 3+7 or 4×5 etc.) and arrange them in a line to make a ladder.
  • Split your class into 2 teams and line them up at either end of the ladder
  • On ‘GO’ the first person from each team starts to head down the ladder answering each question as they go
  • When the members from both sides eventually meet in the middle the students battle using ‘rock, paper, scissors’
  • The winner continues down the ladder, the loser heads to the back of their teams line and a new team-mate begins at the start of the ladder
  • The team scores a point if they make it all the way to the end of the ladder

Mixed Up Stories

Another one requiring paper and pencils! Each student takes a piece of paper and writes 1 sentence to begin a story (its fun to set a theme) at the top of the page.  They fold the page so the sentence cannot be seen, and pass the paper on.  The next person adds their sentence without reading the previous one.  This continues until the teacher decides to stop really.  Then you open up the pages and read the stories – be prepared for a lot of laughter!

A to Z

This game is great for building vocabulary and general knowledge.  You simply set a topic and then go round the class taking turns to name something in the category that begins with that letter. For example if your category is animals you may have ‘alligator’ followed by ‘bear’ followed by ‘catfish’ and so on.

That’s it for this mini-series; I hope it has given you some ideas for your classes! If you haven’t already, then don’t forget to check out the earlier posts in this series by beginning at the introduction. Thanks as always for stopping by,