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Dr. Ken Shore's
Classroom Problem Solver

Appropriate Line Behavior

Behavior problems often occur when students line up to leave the classroom and walk through the hallways. In their eagerness to be first in line or to get to the next activity, they might run to the door, push their way to the front, or cut in line -- often knocking into other students in the process. They might argue over who is the line leader, who stands next to whom, and who gets to hold the door. Problems can continue as they walk the halls. Their incessant chatter might disrupt nearby classes.

Because knowing when problems are occurring isn't always easy, it's important to keep a watchful eye on students in the hallway or other unstructured areas. That is not the time to relax rules or lessen efforts to maintain discipline.



Tell students in advance they are leaving the room. Students who feel rushed might knock into other students as they hurry back to their seats or run to the door. Let them know a few minutes in advance that they should begin to put away their materials because they will be leaving class. Make sure they have enough time to get ready without feeling rushed. That is especially important for students who are disorganized and have difficulty with transitions.

Have a system for lining up. Without an organized approach to lining up, you can face chaos as students push into line to stand next to friends or push aside classmates to get to the front of the line. Some potential line-up techniques include the following:

  • Have students line up by rows or tables.
  • Have girls line up first and then boys, or vice versa.
  • Have students who are sitting quietly line up first.
  • Have students line up according to personal characteristics. For example, students whose names begin with a specific letter or whose birthday is in a particular month might line up first.
  • Assign students a day of the week, from Monday to Friday. On Mondays, students who are assigned that day would line up first, and so on.

After students have lined up, be sure to separate those who are likely to fool around with one another. If they walk double file, place students who are prone to act up with well-behaved partners.

Play a game with students while they are lined up. If they are in line, but can't leave the classroom yet, play a game. For example, you might have younger students count by two's or have older students name states, beginning with the first student in line.

Tell the line leader to stop moving if students are noisy. Let the class know the leader will be doing that. Once the noise stops, the leader can start the line moving again. Students might be frustrated by the delay, which will serve as an incentive to quiet down.

Have students start over if they misbehave. If students are particularly noisy while lining up, or are pushing and shoving, have them return to their seats to try again. Similarly, if students are noisy or disruptive in the hallway, have them go back to the classroom and start the process again. You can do that with the entire class or with individual students. Students eventually will become frustrated with the delay, especially if they are waiting to go somewhere they want to go to, such as lunch or recess.

Set up hallway checkpoints. Identify two or three checkpoints in the hall and tell the line leader to stop at those points. That gives you a chance to make sure students are under control. If the class has to go up or down stairs, make that one of the checkpoints so you can observe as students negotiate the stairs. You also might put down markers leading to the lunchroom to guide students where to walk.

Give trouble-prone students jobs to do. That might be holding open a door, closing a door, turning off lights, and so on. The jobs not only will give them a sense of importance, they also might serve as incentives to act appropriately. Allow students to do their jobs as long as they stay out of trouble.

Separate lockers of students who have conflicts. If your school has lockers in the hallway, make sure students who do not get along with each other have lockers that are not near each other.

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist and chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools. He has written five books, including Special Kids Problem Solver and Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver.

Click to read a complete bio.