Tips for Changing Grade Levels

Changing grade levels and need some tips? I can help! First, with some sympathy, and then with a lot of advice to get you started on this new journey :)

Switching grades is extremely overwhelming. Especially if it wasn’t your choice. It feels like you’re being asked to start all over again. Even if it was your choice, it can still seem daunting. Those somehow still so familiar feelings of panic and inadequacy you had as a first year teacher arise when you remember your first year of teaching and have the sudden fear that this might be like being a brand new teacher all over again.

Don’t be afraid though! First of all, it’s not your first year teaching again and this might actually end up being your favorite grade you never knew you loved (just go with me on this).

Even if you’re leaving a grade you love, and are so comfortable with, for what seems like a whole other world, I promise I have both words of comfort and practical advice for you that I hope can help you make an easy transition to your new grade level.

Although scary at first, this change might refresh and renew your love of teaching and halfway through the year you’ll wonder how you could ever go back to kindergarten… or fourth grade, or wherever you came from.

I hope I can comfort you in this transition but also give you actionable tips that you can use today to help you in your new adventure next school year… but I am going to start with comfort because, let’s face it, that’s what you need most right now. At least for a minute. I’d hug you if I could. Having to change grade levels is really tough. You go through a range of emotions that you have every right to feel.

If you are moving to first grade, definitely check out:
I already laid out e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. for you! :)

If you are switching to kindergarten or second grade, I still think it’d be a really helpful read for you! I laid out everything a teacher new to first grade would want to know – from how to teach math and set up your math block, to all the components to teaching reading, to classroom management, to classroom set up, to how to fit in science and social studies… with a lot of pictures to help guide you!

Okay, let’s get started. This post is long but I think you’ll find it helpful if you read it through.

Step 1: First, Give Yourself Permission to Feel However You Feel
You may feel angry that you’re being asked to move. You may feel sad about it. You probably feel both, depending on the day. You may feel panic and fear. You may feel like you’re scrambling. You may wonder, with everything else you have going on, how you’ll be able to “start over.” You may feel really, really down. It is normal to feel these things.

Give yourself permission to feel every way about it that you do.

What grade you teach can feel like a big part of your identity. “I teach third grade!” is something you’re not only used to saying but it’s really part of who you are and who you’ve been. It is perfectly okay to mourn the loss of your old grade level, of that identity you’ve become so accustomed to. Cry if you need to, go in your backyard and let out a scream if you need to.

Let yourself feel all those emotions so that you can get it out of your system and get to the next one – excitement for your new grade level! Once you’re ready for the excited phase (and you may have to fake it at first), push away any thoughts about how you’ll miss your old grade level or team or whatever – and focus on your exciting new adventure!

Step 2: Remember what a good teacher you already are.
This isn’t starting all over. You’re not reliving your first year. Back then, you were new to the grade level and new to teaching. Yes, the content you’re teaching is a bit different but kids are kids. So many of the classroom management tricks you’ve picked up and used in kindergarten will work in third grade too, and vice versa. If anything, it’s probably a slightly different approach than the kids are used to and might work really well because of that.

Your time management skills, organization systems, etc. have grown so tremendously since your first year and they are still intact.

The vast majority of teacher awesomeness skills you’ve accumulated are not grade level specific and are completely transferable to this new grade. Some may need a few tweaks but many don’t need any tweaking at all.

This is not like your first year. I repeat: This is not like your first year. Keep reminding yourself of that! If you are a GREAT teacher, you’re a great teacher. Period.  & Before you question that you’re a great teacher, don’t. A great teacher is the one who reads blogs like you are right now and is always trying to improve. What this tells me about you is that you care and are also possibly hard on yourself because you care so much. It’s really easy (and normal!) when being faced with a grade level change to question your abilities in all aspects of teaching so if you’re doing that, know that it’s perfectly normal to do so but it is also silly so tell that voice to shhh :) You will rock this new grade level.

Even if this is just going to be your 2nd year teaching, you still have a whole year of tricks you’ve learned and personal experiences of what worked and what didn’t to bring into this new year. So, above all, I want you to not be hard on yourself. This IS going to be a lot of work. It will be overwhelming at times (when is teaching not though?) but you’ve got this. You’ve totally got this.

…and you might just love it!
Okay I promise I will get to the actionable tips really soon but I feel like mindset is half the battle here and switching grade levels can be a really emotional thing so it’s important to nurture your feelings, not just your bulletin boards.

Step 3: Use your current grade level expertise to plan for this one.
Take a second to write down your absolute favorite activities or things you do in your current grade level. You’re probably thinking, “I can’t do ___ in [new grade]!” Actually, you probably can! Just take a moment to sit down with a pen and notebook in hand and think of your favorite activities from this year or previous years, write them down on a piece of paper with a line space in between. A writing prompt kids really liked, a craft you did for a holiday, a math center the kids really enjoyed, a fun activity you all did together, a book they really loved that you read aloud, a science topic they thought was interesting… etc.

Then, for each one, map quickly how you could modify it to do it in your new grade level. I bet you can and that modifying it for your new grade will actually make it better.

This is especially easy to do for your favorite seasonal and holiday activities. Think of the fun things you did this year and see how you could do them in your new grade level. Even if you’re moving 4 or 5 grade levels up or down, you can still do this.

If you’re moving down in grade level, you can take that activity and make it way more fun by making it craftier or more hands on or less writing lines or less difficult ways to show their knowledge. If you’re moving up in grade level, you can make it way better by digging deeper and exploring more… doing cooler, more complex projects about the topic. If it’s a writing activity, it might just be more or less lines or a little tweak to the directions.

If you have trouble coming up with ways to make it in your new grade, search that topic and your new grade level together on Pinterest. I bet someone has come up with something!

You’ll be so surprised to see you can still do the vast majority of your favorite activities from your previous grade level. I feel like that brings a lot of comfort and helps you see you’re not totally starting over.

Seriously try it, have an open mind, and start planning there :) Even if it’s a multiplication project and now you’re moving to first grade, I bet you can find a way to make that activity for addition and/or subtraction. In fact, I know you can because if you read my Addition Fact Fluency blog post with all my ideas for how to help kids master all their addition facts, I literally made that unit and its activities into a multiplication fact fluency unit and I actually think that unit is even better!

Because I make teaching resources, I constantly have teachers in different grade levels asking me to make an activity I have but for their grade level. 9 times out of 10, it’s actually easy to do!  

Step 4: Utilize Your New Team and/or the Current Teacher(s) in that Grade
If you have a team you’re joining, ask them how they do things! Go into their classrooms, look at their set up – how do they organize centers? How do they do small groups? How do they do everything? Ask them questions!

If you find out you’re changing grade levels before the current school year ends, go into those classrooms during your specials or any breaks you have during the day to see what it’s like with kids in that grade in the classroom. Go visit the teacher and low key spy on the class to see what that age is like. It’ll give you an idea of what that grade level is like, what to expect from the kids, etc. Even more awesome if you can see them during centers or an activity. Look over their shoulders to see where they are. Don’t let it scare you if the class you visit is a little crazy – that teacher is not you and you might run your classroom way differently – plus, it is the end of the school year and, let’s face it, everybody’s tired :) It’ll give you a great idea, though, of what the grade level is like. If you’re teaching a different grade level, you most likely have specials/lunch/etc. at different times so that makes it easy to pop in and say hello for a few minutes to that teacher and do some undercover work :) Don’t stay a long time, just pop in and say hello, say you wanted to check out what __ graders are like.

You could also pop into the grade level of the kids you’ll have next year to see where they’re at. If you’re going to be teaching third grade next year, pop into the 2nd grade classrooms. That’s actually a great way to see where they are at academically, behaviorally, level of independence, etc. Even if you’re moving to a new school, it still will give you an idea of that grade and where they’re at toward the end of the year which gives you a good idea of how they’ll be when they come back in the fall.

Step 5: Utilize Social Media
If you’re reading my blog, you probably already do this but utilize social media! There are SO many great ideas out there ready to be found. There are also so many wonderful people sharing how they do things, tips for pretty much everything, and many of these people are so willing to help you! Find the ones in your grade level and/or that inspire you.

If you see something cool on social media, even if it’s in the background of a photo, don’t be afraid to ask them what it is, how they use it, what they recommend, etc. A lot of people are so willing to help! You know those teacher hearts. Teachers love to help. I type out novels when people ask me questions sometimes and it makes me feel good to know I helped someone… and I know a lot of other people feel the same. I never feel like you’re bothering me and I’m sure others feel the same so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you don’t get a response from someone, please try not to be upset though – they may get hundreds of questions a day (especially if they have a large social media following) and simply miss your question or maybe they simply don’t have an answer they feel is good enough to give you so they let your message sit until they feel like they have something helpful to say. Search your question first though – there are probably already blog posts about it!

Step 6: Start Planning By Subject Now
This is the biggest tip that will help launch you into feeling ready. I love this one.

Don’t just plan and gather materials for each new concept as it comes up in your curriculum during the school year. That can leave you feeling overwhelmed all year long, with that feeling of always scrambling to catch up, which is probably one of your fears going into this new journey. There’s an easy way to solve that!

Look at your standards in your new grade level. Create a Pinterest board for each subject or major standard for the entire year. This is super quick to do. Simply create the empty boards first.

I recommend breaking it way down – have a board for each math skill – a board for fractions, a board for addition, a board for measurement, a board for telling time, etc.

I do this and it helps me so much! You can look at my organized boards here (make sure you're currently logged in to see the boards organized; if you're not logged in, they'll look like a big mess) and feel free to save any or all of my pins to your own boards if you teach K-3 and would use any of the ideas.

See how my boards are organized by topic?

I have a board for each type of phonics skill. I have a short vowels board, a long vowels board, a vowel teams board, a digraphs board, and so on. I also have a board for each math skill (a board for number sense, a board for adding 3 numbers, a board for geometry, etc.), a board for classroom management, a board for grammar. You could break each grammar skill too into boards with a board for nouns, a board for prefixes and suffixes, etc. and do that for any subject – science, writing, etc.

I also recommend separate boards for each holiday you do in the classroom. Yes, this is a lot of boards BUT it makes it so much easier to find what you’re looking for when you have such specific boards. Then, when you go to teach that skill, you can go straight to that board and have a bunch of ideas you personally picked out to help you feel excited, inspired, and ready to teach it.

If you just have a huge “2nd grade” board, you’re going to scroll and scroll and scroll and get so distracted by ALL the things you’ve ever pinned that you won’t get much done when you go to plan. This digital organization of each concept will save you so much time during the year!

Throughout the summer, as you’re looking online for fun ideas, save them to the board they fit on and then when you go to teach that skill, you’ll have all these ideas already all there for you!

Plus, this will help get you excited for your new grade level!

Now it’s time to fill your boards!

Search each standard you have to teach by typing in the concept (for example, type in “Digraphs activities”) and scroll through a little bit and save ideas and activities you like.

Don’t make it a chore to fill your boards. Let it be fun! Fill them as you see things you love. Only save things you really like. Especially save things if they’re already made for you and available on TpT so when you go to teach that concept, you already have resources made for you lined up to possibly use.

Again, if you’re moving anywhere within K-2, I’ve already done a lot of the work for you by gathering ideas by subject and these are the boards I add to when I find fun new things. You can follow me by clicking this:

Feel free to check out my boards and how they're organized and save as much as you want to your own boards :)

Step 7: Buy Year Sets of Things
It is so, so helpful to buy year sets of things. Make sure it is a quality resource from a TpT seller you trust that makes resources for that grade level, then buy a year set of it.

If it’s a set of math units, try out a unit and if you love it, buy the full year set. If it is a type of morning work or a certain activity to do at centers, buy a year set. The consistency is SO helpful and will help both you and your new students get into a routine that lets you transition into these new things to teach with ease.

I used to think piecing together free or cheap things here and there was saving me money but really it was SO much work and not worth my time to constantly be searching. Find a few TpT sellers you know, love, and trust, and buy their bundles.

If you’re switching to first grade and don't know where to start, I recommend my Phonics No Prep Packs because I have them for all the phonics sounds and the pages are the same – only the sound changes each week – so you don’t have to ever give directions after the first week or two because they know how to do the activity and can focus on the new skill (let’s say the CH digraph) for that week. It’s so much easier for both you and the students. I have that bundle but also a Phonics No Prep Packs Part 2 bundle with the less common sounds in case you have to teach those too. All of the packs also come individually so you can try them out and get them as you need them too. A lot of people do that :)

Whether you get resources from me or someone else though, either buy year sets or buy something individual to try out that also comes in a year set so that you can have it for the entire year whether you upgrade to the bundle or keep buying the individual sets piece by piece so that you can have that consistency. Consistency, consistency, consistency. I can’t stress that enough! 

It will help so much with avoiding that scrambling feeling. Having to constantly scramble for resources every week for your new grade level is stressful. Don’t do that to yourself. If someone already did the work for you, let them.

& Trust me, someone already did the work for you. There are so many amazing sellers and resources on TpT that no matter what you are looking for, I bet someone not only already made it but made it look really nice and colorful and ready for you to just hit print and enjoy the rest of your summer. Yes, maybe you can make it yourself but you’re probably making pennies per hour in how long it takes you and actually you’re probably losing money. & If you’re spending HOURS searching for free things to avoid buying anything (so tempting) and piecing together all these mismatched free things… honestly, you’re creating more work for yourself IN the classroom because you’ll always have to explain to students this new style/activity... and are you actually saving money? If you spend 3 hours looking for free things to do that you could’ve gotten already made for you and way better quality for $4.. you’re paying yourself about $1.33 per hour. Isn’t your time worth more than that? That is some looow pay for someone as highly educated as you. I was born and raised to search for bargains (I still have paper towel rolls for crafts in my cabinet) so it took me so long to realize this but it was such an AHA! moment when I did. I used to scour for free things when I needed something and would feel so accomplished when I found something cute (like that rush when you find a really cute shirt way marked down on sale) – then I realized that I was really cheating myself out of so much time I could spend doing something else (and wondering why I always felt like I wasn’t getting things done) and really devaluing my time.

Plus, piecing together a bunch of free items doesn’t have a flow to it. Your students might feel like they’re scrambling too, to figure out how to do the new thing or if things don’t match even for the same concept. If you use my math units, for example, you know the centers practice exactly the concept the classwork and worksheets practiced. The fun cut and paste worksheets practice the same skill. The assessments are straightforward and exactly what they’ve been practicing all week/weeks in their classwork, homework, center work. It’s cohesive. If you’re teaching them [whatever math skill] and piecing together a bunch of different things, it’s going to feel all over the place, especially if your assessment doesn’t accurately assess what they’ve actually been working on. You know??  

I hope that didn’t sound like a lecture. There are some awesome free things out there but I am SUCH a frugal person that it took me a long time to realize how important this is. Once I did and realized that was a huge part of why I felt so stressed, I wanted to shout it from the blogtops :) Now I pretty much only use free things to see if I like something enough to buy a full set of it.

Since this is a new grade level to you, though, you may want to try things out for a few weeks first by only getting a few resources while you get to know your new students and this grade’s ability levels and what works for them. Personally, I’m the type of person that would want to have my worksheets and centers prepped several weeks in advance at least, especially for the first few crazy weeks of school, so I would buy year sets up front so I could get them in bundles and prep them way ahead of time. I want to sit on my couch and watch junk TV while I cut out centers waaay before I need them.

Step 8: Read teaching blogs!
Any time you come across a new concept you’re unsure how to teach, search it (type in something like “How to teach multiplication third grade”) and click on teaching blogs that come up in the first few search pages. I bet several people have written posts about how to teach it to help you!

Don’t be embarrassed to type in a topic you think you should know. Who in the world knew what a diphthong is before they were told to teach it? I have searched many kindergarten and first grade level topics I feel like I should’ve known from my own schooling but didn’t and am not ashamed :)

I personally love writing those types of helpful blog posts and have done them for a lot of different concepts like How to Build Number Sense or How to Teach Graphing and Data Analysis or How to Teach Arrays or Teaching Money (and so many more!) for math… or Digraphs Ideas or Sight Words Activities or whatever for literacy.

I have A LOT of different How-to-Teach type posts – if you teach K-3, check out this organized list by concept to see fun ideas for teaching many different topics:

Let other people inspire your teaching and show you fun ways to teach the concept! There are sooo many teaching bloggers out there! I am just one of many, many :)

If you find a post that’s really helpful, keep reading more on that person’s blog, I bet it’s not the only great thing they’ve written!

Step 9: Enjoy the new age!
Are they younger than you’re used to? Enjoy how sweet and cuddly and silly they are. 

Are they older than you’re used to? Rejoice in how much more independent they are. 

Going from 1st to 4th? OMG they can read directions! Going from 4th to 1st? OMG I can read adorable silly picture books in fun voices and giggle with them like I’m 5 at the funny pictures. 

Every grade level has its absolutely wonderful, amazing things about it and I’m so excited for you to find them in your new grade level!

Again, if you’re switching to first grade (or Kinder or 2nd), DEFINITELY check out this huge post I wrote breaking down everything you need to know to teach first grade:

Thank you so much for taking the time to read all of this. This post was a lot more ramble-y than usual but I have had so many people telling me they’re switching grade levels this year and I wanted to try to offer some words of comfort and advice!

I have SOO many blog posts planned out to post now – from reading to classroom management to math to more teacher tricks – I am really excited!

Let’s talk! Let me know in the comments if you’re switching grade levels (from what to what?), how you’re feeling, how you’re preparing, or just anything you want to share! If you see someone moving to your grade level (or old grade level), feel free to reply to their comment and give them tips! Let’s help each other! :)

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy these posts:
25 Chatty Class Classroom Management Strategies for Overly Talkative Students
How to Keep Gifted Students Engaged and Learning
How to Tackle Tattling in the Classroom
Classroom Routines and Procedures Checklist
How to Have a Quiet Line

Here's an image for you to pin if you want!

Changing grade levels tips for teachers to make switching grades an easy and fun transition!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! As I said, I have a lot more blog posts planned out so stay tuned! :)

How to Have a Quiet Line Ideas and Activities

Do you struggle with how to have a quiet line? Is it hard to get your students to clean up quickly and get in line quietly? Then when you try to walk somewhere, they’re super chatty or have trouble walking straight. If so, no worries, I have A TON of ideas and activities I’m about to share with you to help you have the nicest looking, silent line in school!

After my 25 Chatty Class Classroom Management Strategies for Overly Talkative Students post went viral back in 2016 (and it still gets so many views every day!), I realized that I’m not the only one who wants classroom management tips for the chatty ones! I have received so many wonderful messages about how Blurt Beans or Blurt Cubes or the other strategies I talked about in that post have transformed their classroom and it makes me so happy. Thank you to all of you who have reached out and shared your stories! I love, love, love hearing them!

One question I constantly get, though, is What about when they’re in line? How do I keep them quiet?

So I have a lot of tips to share with you to expand on that post – What do you do when they’re OUTSIDE the classroom… walking in line… for the whole school to see?

First, Ditch the Line Order!
If you’re using a line order where students always line up in the same order every time, stop that right away! I have NO idea why people do this. They’re always next to the same people and there is SO. MUCH. POWER. in the actual act of lining up! Line order ruins that by having a predetermined place.

Think about it – when going somewhere, kids LOVE to be first. They also love getting to be by their friends. If they already know their place in line is predetermined, why would they do anything for you to get in line? Why would they behave in line once they get there? There is no incentive. They’re going to take their time during clean up, not clean up as well as they could, talk to their friends, tap their friends, etc.

If they know their behavior makes all the difference as to their spot in line, they will work for those coveted first spots. They want to be the first in line to go to lunch, first to recess, etc. so it is always something earned and has so much power.

Kids will clean up so much faster in transitions if you tell them you’re looking for the best and quietest cleaners to line up first. It’s gold.

Not only will lining up be so much less stressful but your classroom will look so much nicer and transitions will be so much faster! No one lines up until their table is clean and super organized… the quietest cleaners with the tidiest table line up first.

Line order has so much classroom management potential. Don’t give that up!

Quiet line up classroom management tips

How this actually works:
As they’re all cleaning, you can say, “Wow, red table is looking really nice! They’re so quiet!” “I love how green table is making sure there’s nothing under their table. They’re almost ready to line up!” “Wow, yellow table is almost done! All the supplies in their caddy are in the right compartments and look so organized.” to basically tell them exactly what you want without sounding bossy. Their directions are to completely clean their table and its area, then sit in their seats quietly with their hands folded to show they are ready to line up. Then, once you actually pick the first table to push in their chairs and line up, the other tables will really scramble! Let the other tables keep cleaning while that table lines up. You’ll only call one table at a time, with time in between each one, so the quicker they’re ready, the sooner they get to line up. Then call the next table once they’re ready: “Wow, purple table looks perfect! Thanks for being so quiet! You may line up.” If you think the kids at a table would fight for spots, you can pick a certain table then call individual students from that table 1 by 1. I think they can handle all going at once though. Make sure they know they’re not allowed to run or push to the line. If they don’t walk quietly to the line, they sit back down. Doing it by table gives them a sense of pride over the cleanliness of their table and, most importantly, peer pressure to help even if they’re the random 1 in a million kid who doesn’t care about their place in line. Their friends will probably (silently) encourage them to help since they know the more hands that are helping them clean up, the more likely they’ll be done first and get called first.

Teach Them HOW to Line Up & Wait
Okay so now you actually have kids in line waiting for other kids to line up. Hopefully you have a designated place in your classroom kids go to line up. It’s best if you have any sort of line they can stand on to stay straight. If your classroom has tile, choose a specific crack in the tile for them to stand on, a carpet edge, up against a wall, etc. If you have nothing like that, put a line of tape on the floor! That’s a super easy way to have them exactly where you want them. You can buy super cute tape with patterns and designs at craft stores.

Once they’re chosen to get in line, they can NOT talk. If they talk even once, they’re sent back into the class to help other tables clean up. Zero tolerance.

At the beginning of the year or on wacky days, you may have to send 5 kids back to cleaning. Make sure you select a few kids ahead of them to line up before you pick them to line up again so they don’t get their same spot back. In the beginning of the year, your entire class might be chatty in the line and you may have to say, “Oh man. We’re talking in line! Everybody go sit back down and we’ll try this again. I hope we’re not late to recess.” and literally start all over. You may have to do that multiple times during the same lining up in the beginning of the year and it stinks but once they realize you’re always consistent and there’s no tolerance for talking, they’ll get it. Don’t accept anything less than your expectations, ever, not even once, especially in the beginning of the year – they are perfectly capable if you have high expectations. Be kind & loving always (don’t ever use a nasty or sarcastic tone) but consistent and firm with your expectations. They should feel like you’re on their side and want them to succeed and get it right and know that they’re going to practice practice practice until they do. It feels rough at first but it makes the rest of the year sooo much easier. I think it helps to use pronouns like “we” and “us” instead of “you” or “you guys” to help them feel like you care and you’re in it together. Tiny difference that makes a big difference, I think. :)

If someone is doing an amazing job cleaning or standing in line quietly, you can clip them up! I love behavior clip charts and think they are worth more than their weight in gold if you use them to proactively manage your classroom and for rewarding positive behavior. I talk all about this in my 20 Classroom Management Strategies You Can Start Right Away post and also show you how I recommend changing your behavior chart to a new, fun theme every month. It keeps it fresh and kids LOVE it. It’s super easy to change out if you use the same colors (all my charts with different holidays, seasons, themes, etc. use the same colors) so you can simply just swap them out on the wall and don’t have to explain anything. Plus kids get SO excited when they see you’ve changed it because it has new levels to aspire to and they’ll all want to get to the new top and get the new certificate! Anyway, I talk all about it on that post and show some of the different charts I use, check it out! :)

Say, “Wow! Jessie is standing SO nice in line, quietly and with her hands behind her back. Go ahead and clip up!” Jessie going to her clip and moving it up a level will encourage others to do the same. I always say to look for the stars during any activity and give them praise. It helps everyone know exactly what you’re looking for/expect and gives them the motivation to do it. Plus they love getting to go clip up so it’s nice to reward the kids who are on task. Especially try to notice when your students who sometimes struggle with behavior are exceeding expectations to clip them up – it makes such a huge difference!

One more thing about this -
Try to make cleaning up transitions fast (it will be much faster if they’re competing for line space) so the kids who line up early don’t have to stand quietly long. They are still wiggly little littles after all.

Clean up for transitions should be quick – they’re simply putting away whatever they were working on, making sure their tables are organized (nothing on top that can be put away, no scraps under the table, etc.), then sitting down in their seats quietly with their hands clasped in front of them on the table waiting to be called to join the line. The entire table must be sitting and quiet to be called.

When standing in line, they should always face forward, mouths closed, staring at the head of the person in front of them, with their hands clasped behind their back. Stress the importance of watching the head of the person in front of them because the line can stop abruptly at any time and you don’t want them to run into the person in front of them.

Whenever the line leader’s table gets called, they go to the front spot. Everyone should know that that’s what they do. It’s not cutting. The person at the front of the line accepts the fact that there is a line leader before them. Door holder also goes straight to the door and stands at it quietly until you’re ready to leave. They don’t get to go to those job spots until their table is called though. I definitely recommend having these classroom jobs for about a week at a time so it’s a routine.

My favorite job for this time though is THE LINE MONITOR!

Have a Line Monitor
When you announce that it’s clean up time, say that you’re looking for a line monitor. That’s an easy way to get everyone working hard for that job!

After everyone is in line, announce the line monitor. Once a line monitor is selected, they know to go grab the pass from wherever you keep it, put it on, and get back in line. I recommend choosing the best and quietest cleaner to be the first line monitor! Again, so much classroom management power!

Read about this awesome classroom job! Line monitor badges are the best classroom management trick to have your students walk in a quiet line!

Simply print the Line Monitor pass (you can get my line monitor passes here if you want the ones I made), laminate it, hole punch a hole in the top, and clip it on a lanyard. You can do it in a fancy lanyard or a simple lanyard like mine. I typically buy lanyards in 12 packs or bigger because I use them for a ton of things! For other passes and math and reading activities too! 

I recommend making at least 2 or 3 of the Line Monitor passes so that if you leave it somewhere by accident after walking somewhere, you have a back up one readily available. Having them in different colors also is an incentive to be chosen as the very first line monitor for that day because they get to choose the color it'll be :)

This class job is also GOLD. It is somewhat similar to the Quiet Monitor job I talk about in my Chatty Class post which is so, so helpful for in-class chattiness.

Okay so you’ve picked the best behaved cleaner to be the line monitor. They put on the lanyard and are back in line with everyone else. Once the line goes out the door, they pop out to walk up and down the line slowly to make sure no one is talking AND, most importantly, because they’re searching for the next line monitor. Tell kids the line monitor is looking for people walking straight, looking at the head in front of them, hands clasped, mouths closed, etc. Remind them that if they look at the line monitor, they’re not looking forward so the line monitor probably won’t choose them :) They feel super important inspecting the line. It’s up to you when they pick the next person – it could be that they only pick 1 the whole journey or several people. Up to you. Just say something like, “Line monitor - Switch” that you say every time so they know to pick a new person. They must pick quickly – no tapping their chins in contemplation and giving everyone a second look – they should already have in their minds who they’re picking because they’ve been watching the line. I recommend 1 or 2 switches depending on how far you’re walking. To switch, the line monitor takes off the lanyard and quietly walks to the person in line who walked the nicest and hands it to them. This can easily be done while the line is moving so it’s not distracting. The person they hand it to pops out of line, puts the lanyard on, and starts their line monitoring. The previous line monitor who just got off duty picks where they want to be in line. No one can ever cut the line leader so they can pick the 2nd spot if they’d like but not the very 1st spot. This is a HUGE perk because they can go get in line by a friend or be 2nd in line if they’re one of those always-want-to-be-first kids. It may seem like a lot of shifting around but the kids get seamless at it and it becomes hardly noticeable. Teach your kids that we NEVER say, “He cut me!” if someone pops in line in front of them - they should always assume that it’s because the person was told to by a teacher or they were supposed to. If your line constantly moves like I recommend, they’ll get used to that quick (someone popping in front of them in line).. which also solves the “She cut me!” type tattles (check out my post on Tackling Tattling if that's also an issue in your classroom) so you’re accomplishing getting rid of that too! We always assume the best intentions within our classroom family. :)

This leads me right into another super helpful trick:

Pick Your Spot Trick
So you know how the line monitor gets to pick where they get into line when their job is done? You can also move the line around as much as you want during your walk for a super easy and effective management trick.

Let’s say you’re walking to lunch and a few kids are talking, say, “Thanks so much Ken for not talking in line! You can pick your spot.” Ken can immediately pop out and pick a new spot. Again, never in front of the line leader but any other spot is fine! This does an immediate reset in your line. Everyone wants to pick their spot so they’ll check themselves. This trick honestly works magic every time! & You can use it as much or as little as you want.

A note about “cutting” -
Of course, whoever he pops in front of cannot say anything about him “cutting” because it’s not cutting – he earned the right to pick his spot. You can do it several times in a trip. I actually think it’s nice to do it a lot in the line to lunch every day because that line order really determines where and who they sit by at lunch and, honestly, they work so hard all day that I want them to get to sit by their friends and chat. It may feel like you’re playing musical lines but who cares? It’s nice for them to get that movement in any way and distracts from the mundane quietness of walking in line and they get to sit by their friends at lunch. This can be done even as young as PreK in a calm and organized manner.

This is so easy and a great trick to get them to be quiet because eeeveryone wants to pick their spot. Some kids will always pick the 2nd spot but most will go stand by a friend they want to be by. If anyone moans because someone stood in front of them (let’s say the 2nd spot kid just picked his spot to be there and got put in 3rd spot by another always-have-to-be-first kid picking 2nd spot right after him), they are not allowed to moan. Any moaning is sent to the back of the line just like you would for talking. Again, all done nicely but firm, staying kind always but matter of fact :)

This is up to you if you want to be this “cool” but you could also give out “Pick Your Spot” passes for excellent behavior. It could be something earned by reaching the top of the clip chart (given with the certificate for that chart) or something they earn another way but these are some great incentives! It could also be something they purchase with their tickets, tokens, etc. if you have a classroom currency.

Pick Your Spot passes are AWESOME for line behavior! Classroom management tricks for how to have a quiet line in this post!

Laminate these so you can reuse them OR simply print them then tear them up when they use them so they can't be used again. Give them very sparingly!

If a kid has a Pick Your Spot pass, they can use it any time you line up and they also get to have the final say in their spot once you reach your destination (in case anyone pops in front of them during the journey).

You can have it be a one time use for one line only or it can be something they get to wear all day on a lanyard (I made the cards to fit inside a lanyard just like the Line Monitor pass) and use it in all the lines they stand in that day. If it’s an all day thing, I recommend they only get something like that for doing something amazing like reaching the top of the clip chart.

This is an awesome reward for getting to sit by your friends at an assembly or even just for lunch or being first out the door to recess.

Any of these tricks that you do, I recommend doing whatever works at the moment and switching it up often. Tricks lose their shine (but it’s easy to get back with a break here and there) so that’s why it’s nice to have a lot of them and rotate doing only one at a time :)

Teach the Basics of Walking in Line
By the way, if you’re teaching preschool or kindergarten or first grade, you also sometimes have to teach them how to walk in line. & Honestly, the older grades often need a refresher anyway so here are some basic tricks:

At first, you’re going to want to walk backwards to watch the line. As they learn the rules more and see how consistent you are with your expectations, you can trust them more… but for now, walk backwards! It’s surprisingly easy but make sure you look back constantly – students can be surprisingly slow to warn you that you’re about to walk into a wall haha.

Your kids should eventually learn how to walk without you even needing to be there. This is why the line leader is actually a super important job.

It depends on the set up of your school but basically, teach your line leader to keep walking until they reach a building corner (if you’re inside, the corner edge of the hallway wall at the end of the hallway; if you’re walking outside, the end of the wall before reaching a corner of a building) and then stop. This really keeps your line looking so nice because no one can really trail behind and leave those big gaps since you stop every so often and it gives everyone a moment to catch up. The line leader stops for a moment until you say “Go ahead” or “Next corner” or whatever your signal is and does this at EVERY corner, always. It actually isn’t that many stops and it really keeps your line looking nice. Plus it teaches your students that they have to always pay attention and look at the person in front of them in case they stop. This also allows you to walk up and down the line if you want to while the line is walking. You don’t ever have to stop the line to go talk to someone who isn’t behaving properly. The line is a machine that runs without you. I highly, highly recommend this approach of walking in line. It is super efficient. It’s also a quick and easy way for you to connect with your kids. Walk down the line and smile at someone and whisper, “Nice job” – trust me, the other kids will hear and notice and strive for the same positive attention. So much less stressful than walking backwards trying to watch 2 dozen kids standing in front of each other at the same time.

When You See Other Classes Walk By
The other class in your grade level may walk by with a bunch of their friends in it or their previous teacher they want to wave to. Teach them that the nicest way to say hi to their previous teacher is to show them how nice they walk. Tell them they can smile and nod at their friends in another class, of course, but no waving or talking. Show them how they can smile and nod to say hi then immediately go back to looking at the person in front of them so they don’t run into them. Do role playing of the smile and nod in little mock scenarios in the classroom. They’ll think it’s funny to act out (act out both what to do and silly examples of what NOT to do) and it’ll help them learn the concept of Smile and Nod.

Also, if your class passes by another class that is walking in a nice line, make it a point to compliment the other class about how nicely they are walking. If there are classes you constantly walk by, ask the teacher the next time you see them without kids if they’ll also do that if they see your class walking nicely. Students loooove to be complimented by other adults that aren’t their teacher. If they do get a compliment from another adult, teach them to smile and nod as they continue walking then make a huge deal about how proud you are of them for getting a compliment on their walk whenever you get to where you’re walking to.

Have a Quiet Turtle
If you read my Chatty class post, you know what a hit the Quiet Turtles are! Get a big, comfy stuffed animal turtle and tell your class this is the mama turtle to all their little quiet turtles if you use my quiet turtle system. You can also simply have this quiet turtle stuffed animal for line walking. Either way, this turtle needs quiet to feel comfortable so we want to help her. The quietest kiddos in line can hold her in a hug while you walk somewhere. When it’s time to switch who has the turtle, you go up to the kid in line with the turtle and act like you’re tip toeing over and put your finger to your lips to signal “Shhh!” all carefully and maternally and hold out your palms for them to place it there. They can give her a little squeeze for a hug goodbye then place her gently in your hands. The moments you’re holding that turtle about to give it to the next person to hold are the quietest moments ever :)

Like I said before, all of these tricks are to be used interchangeably. Some days you might take the quiet turtle, some days you might have a line monitor, other days you might just switch people in line. All classroom management tricks, no matter how awesome they are, can lose their shine if you use them all the time so use different ones on different days. Don’t do the quiet turtle EVERY day or they’ll get over it.. maybe a few times a week at the most to keep it special.

The quiet turtle also allows you to tie it all in to your voice level chart if you use the one from my Chatty Class pack where the quietest level is the Quiet Turtle, which helps them manage their voice levels when you’re in the classroom too.

What to Do When You’re Stuck in Line
Have you ever gotten in line, walked your kids somewhere and it went so well and quickly that you realize that you’re 5 or even 10 minutes early?! The dread creeps in of, “Oh gosh they were being so good and now I have to somehow keep them quiet out in the hall for 10 minutes?!”

Never??! Please tell me you have. Anyway! If that ever does happen to you and you’re stuck outside the music room door while another class finishes up for 5 or 10 more minutes with 24 six and seven year olds to entertain, that’s okay! Do some fun Silent Activities!

Try to get them up against a wall if you have one available so you’re out of the way of anyone else who wants to walk by. It also helps keep them in line and not spread all over. Then stand in front of them, in front of the middle of the line.

Some easy silent activities are:
* The obvious “Miss Giraffe Says” game but with your name. Miss Giraffe says, “Touch your nose.” Miss Giraffe says, “Hop on one foot.” Miss Giraffe says, “Stop.” etc. If they do a command you say without you saying “Miss Giraffe says” first, they have to sit down in their place in line. Have them sit out for 2-4 more commands only or they’ll get restless. Just say, “Miss Giraffe Says Everybody Up” to invite anyone sitting down back in the game. If you have a super well-behaved class, you could play until there’s a winner (once they sit down, they’re out until 1 person is left standing) but most classes will get restless… and it’s more fun for everyone to keep playing anyway.

* My favorite thing to do is SIGN LANGUAGE Sight Words! Or spelling words.
If you use my Sign Language Secret Sight Words or Sign Language Secret Words for the various phonics sounds then your kids already know the sign language alphabet letters from all the fun game cards they practice during centers.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, definitely check out my Secret Sight Words blog post to see pictures of what I’m talking about. I also show some of the phonics ones in my Short A: Teaching Short Vowels post, my Teaching Digraphs post, and my How to Teach EW UE UI post showing the sign language secret word centers in action for those sounds. I have them for almost every sound but those posts show the activities for those particular sounds but if I have something for one sound, I most likely have it for all the others too – I love making phonics materials :)

All of my sign language secret words packs come with my Sign Language Alphabet Chart plus I also have my Sign Language Alphabet Posters hanging right above my regular Alphabet Posters so it’s everywhere and it’s a super fun thing to learn in the classroom! My sign language A poster is right above the A alphabet poster, the sign language B poster is right above the B alphabet poster, etc. so it’s an easy quick reference. I also talked about it a little bit in my How to Help Gifted Kids Engaged and Learning post but it’s really fun for everyone!

So anyway, stand in front of the line in the middle while they stand against a wall. Use your fingers to finger spell a word. Have them copy each letter with their hand and try to remember what letter that is. Make sure to tell them to not say anything out loud because it's a secret word they're trying to figure out :) Spell a simple word (3 or 4 letters max) letter by letter than have them hold it in their heads. Spell it quicker 1 more time. Give them a tiny bit to think then tell them to whisper it to each person next to them if they think they know what it is. Then say, “Whisper share!” and they will chorally whisper the secret word. It’s super fun! You can do it with the sight words you’re learning that week or your spelling words.

If you think that is too hard for them (they can do it in first grade and up if they normally do my Secret Sign Language word centers) or you don’t use my sign language centers, you can simply tell them you’re going to teach them a secret language and teach them how to sign the letters of the alphabet.

Whisper A and make A on your hands and let them all copy you. Then do B. Then C. Then have them do A, B, C together. Do this in groups of 3 letters at a time (DEF then GHI then JKL, etc.) to learn the alphabet. This will keep them super interested and occupied. If you don’t know the alphabet, bring a Sign Language Alphabet Chart with you to reference. It’s an awesome way to keep them quiet!

Once they know the alphabet well because you’ve done this a few times, you can then finger spell their spelling words or sight words like I said above later on in the year. Make sure you go over the word after they’ve told you what it is for the kids who might not have gotten it. Finger spell it together, whispering the letter this time as you make it, and then say what the word is. Finger spell as you say “T” “H” “I” “S” we spelled THIS! Go slow enough so they can finger spell it with you as you make and say the letters.

* Math problems. Ask them a math problem (Ex: 3+5) and have them make it on their hands and put them behind their back. When everyone’s hands are behind their back, tell them to either show you all at once or share with the person next to them then all share at the same time. Go over each problem in a whisper to explain the answer so it’s great learning too. “Awesome! We had 3 (hold up 3 fingers) and we added 5 (count up 5 more on your fingers) to get 8 so our sum is 8! Okay next one…” Easy and quick way to get a little math practice in!

Phew okay, that is a lot! Did you know someone could talk this much just about lining up?? I am notorious for super long blog posts so you probably expected it from me. :) I really hope this could help give you some great tips on how to have a quiet, well behaved line!

How to Have a Quiet Line Ideas and Activities

If you want the Pick Your Spot passes and the Line Monitor badges, they're here:

I have A LOT more helpful blog posts if you need help with classroom management!

I also have a ton of posts about how to teach various math concepts, reading skills, classroom decorating tips, and so much more. This one had a lot of words but I usually show a ton of picture examples too so definitely check out my other posts if you want some inspiration and ideas!

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Quiet Line Activities and Ideas to help your students have amazing hallway behavior!

Thanks so much for reading!! I have a lot more blog posts planned for this summer so stay tuned!! :)