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The Easiest Way to get your Class to and from Recess

By Cynthia Levy

I once worked with a teacher who at recess time would just tell everyone to go in the hall and line up. Sometimes this would work, but most of the time it didn't. There was pushing, shoving, hitting, and screaming. Recess was only 20 minutes long and sometimes it took about 10 minutes to get everyone to quiet down. This only made students more upset, especially those who were listening and following directions.

All of the students would get recess but had to miss some of it. Recess time is important because learning does not always happen inside the classroom, it happens outside too. At recess, children learn to be around other people, have conversations, think independently about what is right and wrong, and respect places other than their homes. I decided to come up with my very own system for lining the children up before recess and have been using it ever since.

My Proven Line Up Procedures

Transition It's always best to begin by making an arrangement with the teacher at the start of the year about stopping class about 10 minutes before recess begins. This is a great way to teach the children about what it means to transition from one activity to another. I always tell the children that before they can be dismissed from recess, they need to make sure that their desks are neat and that they are standing quietly behind their tucked chairs.

Line Order Then, children are ready to be dismissed to their cubbies to get snacks, and I would do so according to line order. By this, I mean assign everyone a number and call a few numbers of children at a time to line up.

But, children need to know where you want them to line up. I believe it's better to have everyone line up in the classroom in case they are noisy. I also designate the front of the room for line up and have numbers on the floor. When each student has their snack, they just stand on top of their number and then they make a straight line that shows they are ready to leave the classroom.

Leaving the Classroom Once everyone is in line, I ask them to face forward in the direction they are headed. It is also a good strategy during our Covid times. This is important because it will make it harder for students to talk in line if they are facing forward. They should also know that there has to be a little distance between them so that they don't run into each other. It’s a good idea to go over what that looks like. As children walk out the door, they should know to hold the door for the person behind them. When everyone is in the hallway, I have them walk to a checkpoint and stop.

Checkpoint A checkpoint is a place in the hall where I decide that everyone is going to stop. I check the line to make sure that everyone is still following line rules. I would always, as the adult, stand in the back of the line. This way, I was able to watch the students more easily. I wouldn't stand in the front of the line because your back will always be turned to the students unless you are talking to them.

Line Leader Each student in the class can be the line leader. This can be done by just rotating students to be the line leader according to when their line number they stood on in class comes up. Having a line leader is a good idea because it gives everyone a chance to lead the class and to set the precedent of how people are going to walk when they are in line. It also helps expose them to leadership skills.

After Recess After recess, the system is almost entirely the same as leaving the classroom to come to the yard. What's different is that you will be having the children line up in a new location. But, you want to make sure children know where they will line up before they start playing on the yard. Also, you should have a signal so that all the kids know that when they hear it, it's time to stop, clean up, and go line up. The easiest signal would be to blow a whistle because it's the loudest and children can hear it from wherever they are.

It’s important to know that children will have a harder time lining up in line order when they leave the playground because they have been playing in different spots all over the yard. I always focus on getting them to line up directly behind the person in front of them, making sure there is a little distance and having them face the direction that they are going. Remind them that as soon as the line begins to move, all the talking has to stop.

Why Line Up Procedures are Important

Having good line up procedures is important because children are learning about how to respect others. Whenever I take children in the hall, I always remind them that the reason we have to be quiet in line and in the hall is because if we make noise we are disturbing other classes and interrupting students from their learning. And we would want them to be this exact same way for us if they were in line. It’s like the old phrase, “Treat others how you would like to be treated.” Nobody wants to have their learning interrupted and I am sure the teachers would appreciate the courtesy.

I know my line up system works. In fact, on days when I did not utilize my procedures, recess did not go as well. The focus drifted towards undesirable behaviors and outcomes. But, by sticking to and implementing these procedures for line up, recess can be a smoother and more enjoyable time to focus on children’s learning and growing.

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