Loving the Line – Tricks for Lining Up
#1 – “Chicken, Airplane, Soldier”
Are kids touching one another, talking, and ignoring directions? No longer! This little phrase will get them in line and straightened up because they think it’s just a game and something fun to do. “Chicken, Airplane, Soldier,” is far and away one of my favorite teaching tricks. I saw a teacher do something like this once when I was doing some field observations early on in college and I’ve adapted and changed it to fit my purposes. This trick seems to work best with Kindergarten and 1st grade, though I’m sure you could do it with older.
I tell students to repeat after me and try out my actions. I say a word and show an action to go with it and they have to echo back with the same action saying the same word. “Chicken” is chicken wings. “Airplane” is hands straight out on either side of you like airplane wings. “Soldier” is hands down and at your side. This is the basic pattern to get all of their hands to themselves and get them on track with the class. Once they’re able to do the three main actions I add in some fun things. A lot of these extra actions come and go with the seasons. We love adding new ones. It’s really easy to add “cow” with two little horns on your head and a “moo”ing sound. Then “unicorn” with one spike in the middle of your head. “Elephant” is fun with one arm turning into a long nose.
Students mimic your actions and in the process they all watch you and match what you want them to do. This can seriously go on forever as you add in new and fun characters/creatures. I always make sure to come back to “Chicken, Airplane, Soldier” because that’s what I’ll end with and that’s the most important of the actions. Seasonal actions come in too with “Pumpkin” “Turkey” “Reindeer” and so on. Endless opportunities and so easy.
Then at the very end, add another “Chicken, Airplane, Soldier” because that brings their hands to their side and makes them look like a perfect little line. Add “and put a bubble in your mouth” and their teacher will think you’re a miracle worker. Check out the pictures below to see just a few of the variations we’ve come up with.
#2 – The “Hair Stare!”
This is a really great trick to get kids to even out their line. All the time I hear one of the teachers in my building say “line up your heads” and another say “this isn’t a very straight line!” but I don’t always hear great direction to the students about HOW to line themselves up better. To adults it’s plain that kid heads aren’t lined up but we (most of the time) have a higher vantage point than students and can see their little heads all at once and see how out of line they really are. But a “line” is a made up and really abstract concept for these little people and not something that comes naturally. It’s just hard for kiddos to see and visualize while they’re doing it. We need to give directions that help them understand better what they need to do to line up.
So I add in this quick little phrase to give kids something to think about that makes sense to them. I say “Do the Hair Stare!” and follow up with “Stare at the hair of the person in front of you.” As long as they keep their eyes trained on the hair of the person in front of them they won’t be looking other places, they’ll have to be right behind the other kid so that they’re staring correctly, and they’ll be mostly stationary. This gets their heads in one long line really quickly and when accompanied with the next trick it usually keeps them lined up straight. I’ve had a couple bounce-back comments like “but the person in front of me doesn’t have any hair” and I’ve had students stare so closely that their noses are touching the kids in front of them. Generally, this is not an issue for anyone except those kids who already have the line issues anyway.
#3 – “3, 2, 1, Freeze!” The Statue Game
Here’s a line trick for the older kiddos. Have them stand in line and do the “Hair Stare” and then give them a few more instructions about where their hands should be and what is acceptable when the game starts. I tell them to put their hands at their side and look ahead. Actually I say, “Hair Stare! Hands at your side! When I say ‘3…2…1… FREEZE!’ You can only breathe and blink. If you move in any other way you’re out and have to go to the end of the line. Don’t move until I say the word RELAX.” Kids 2nd through 5th grade all love this game and will sometimes request the “statue game.” It’s great for those times when you get to the door and realize that you’re a minute too early or that their teacher is a minute (or 5) too late. If you catch a kid moving, they get sent to the end of the line! Acceptable movements are blinking and breathing. Anything else and they’re “OUT!”
There are a bunch of variations that you can take with this game. One of my favorites for older or smart-alecky classes (after they’ve done the normal version a few times) is to say, “Okay, now I’m going to make it harder. Hair Stare. Put one hand straight out away from your body pointed towards the wall. Now… 3…2…1… FREEZE!” and then they have to stand their with their arm hanging in the middle of the air. I only ever do this with 4th and 5th grade classes who aren’t moving at all with the normal version and when I can’t catch a kid moving and send them to the end. It really becomes an endurance game then. Or, sometimes I’ll try and trick them by saying something like “Okay” instead of “relax” to get them to move when they aren’t supposed to. Or I might “drop” a set of rhythm sticks or a ball or something to see if someone moves. At that point it’s me trying to see who will laugh or move when I drop the item and it really does become a game. I’ve also had kid “monitors” come out and watch for other kids who are moving but that can sometimes turn into a problem. I like it better when I’m the one watching. It’s a great time-killer for those shorts time slots when you don’t want them to totally digress into kidness but don’t want to just stand there.