Lining Up

“Mr. Anderson! Kelsey cut in line!” calls out Nicole.

“No I didn’t! I was here a second ago. I just had to get my lunch ticket!” Kelsey retorts.

The fourth grade girls glare at each other and then look at me, waiting for my response.

I don’t want to spend any time dealing with this. We’re already three minutes late to lunch, and I have three phone calls to make to parents. “C’mon girls. It doesn’t matter where you are in line. We’re all going to the same place and we’re all getting there at the same time,” I respond.

Does this sound familiar? It’s tempting to be dismissive in these situations. As teachers, we have so many pressing things to worry about that line order on the way to lunch doesn’t seem important.

But it does matter. Sometimes the good side-dishes run out by the end of the line. Lunch tables fill up, and children who are last in line may not get to sit with their friends. Think about how stressed out we get when someone cuts us off in heavy traffic or jumps ahead of us in line at the movie theater. Think about how stressful it can be at a professional conference when you’re not sure where to sit for lunch and can’t find anyone you know.

Children who have a hard time at lunch will likely return to the classroom upset—and that affects their learning, their classmates’ learning, and you. Spending time arguing in line can also set an anxious and negative tone for the lunchroom.

So what can a teacher do? You might be able to eliminate some of those squabbles by using structures and routines that create a more relaxed and respectful tone during transition times such as lining up. Some teachers create a rotating schedule so that everyone knows when they’re going to be in line and everyone gets a turn at the front. Some teachers have students line up in various ways that mix things up (alphabetical order by last names (or first names or middle names), by the colors students are wearing, or other similar categories. For more ideas along those lines, see “Who Goes First?,” a blog post by Margaret Berry Wilson. And please share your tips in the comments here!


Tags: Hallways, Lunchroom, Misbehavior, Transitions