Is It Time To Spit Out That Marshmallow? Re-Thinking Lineups.

Last night, I was scrolling through some tweets, and I caught a conversation with a fellow Kindergarten educator, Rachel Lynch-Hasegawa.

Lineups. A discussion point that’s definitely close to my heart. I quickly replied with this tweet, and then shared the post with my teaching partner, Paula, as I said that I would do.

This post led to a long text conversation, which Paula agreed to let me share here. Thanks to Doug Peterson for sharing this iFake Text Message option needed to create this texting dialogue. (I love that Paula and I communicate so much back-and-forth, and I think there’s value in seeing our evolving thought process and our temporary decision.)




Maybe it’s a utopian ideal to even think that kids can move freely, and quietly, around a school without being in a line. It’s not that I always want silence. But I’m also very aware of noise in the hallway, especially since our class does not heed to nutrition breaks. Play (and by the use of that word, I’m also inferring, learning) happens over the break times. So when kids are yelling down the hall or are loud outside of our doorway, it interrupts what our kids are doing. It pulls our attention. And it usually, increases the volume in our room.

While I understand and respect why young children need to talk and should be encouraged to do so, I also think there’s value in making them aware of what else is happening in the school. Is there a way to whisper? Is silence always necessary? I don’t think so, but I would love to have kids involved in this decision making process:

  1. Because I think they can be … here we are back at the “competent and capable” line in the Kindergarten Program Document, and 
  2. Because by being involved in the process, my hope is that they will not just rely on others to monitor their volume. 

If we want kids to get better at making decisions, I think we have to let them make decisions. I remember many years ago when I first started teaching. I used to have a long list of rules for the lunch hour.

  • Stay in your seat.
  • Do not talk. Just eat.
  • Raise your hand if you want to get up for any reason. Need to throw away garbage? Raise your hand. Have to go to the bathroom? Raise your hand.
  • Tidy-up quietly when the warning bell goes.
  • Get dressed for recess quickly and quietly. Stay focused on what you need to do.

My students had excellent self-control, and they followed every one of these rules well. But it was like Pavlov’s dogs. The moment that bell went, kids sprung into action and got ready for outside. They were well-trained. Except when they didn’t have lunch monitors watching their every move or teachers supervising their every action, they acted out. I always heard about recess problems. I was frustrated to no avail, but now I wonder if I inadvertantly created these problems myself. By being the one that made all of the decisions and oversaw all of the actions, students had no control, so when they did, they seemed to also lose all control. 

With very few transitions, we don’t move a lot in the hallway. Lineups are rare for us anyway. But maybe, at times, they don’t need to exist. Could kids monitor their own volume? Could they be responsible for getting from Point A to Point B in a less rigid manner? How might they adjust to the few times when they need to be in a line (e.g., during a fire drill)? 

Ellen Brown responded to Rachel’s tweet with a fantastic suggestion.

We document and reflect on so much else in our classroom environment. Why not make this lineup conundrum the source of some student voice and documentation? What might it teach us about students as learners and co-constructors of knowledge? I will definitely be watching and listening closely come Monday. What about you?


2 thoughts on “Is It Time To Spit Out That Marshmallow? Re-Thinking Lineups.

  1. Omitting the word ‘line’ , but instead using ‘let’s gather as a group’ might offer the freedom of position and movement. I think a discussion about why we line up and walk in a line might offer some good conversation and thought from the children. From the child’s perspective, having the freedom to move within a group ‘their way’ may solidify trust, that the adults/educators see them as competent and capable, that they don’t have to be ‘rule followers’, but safe decision makers. What makes sense? Having the watchful eye of both educators ensures safety and modelling of appropriate moving plus opportunity for documentation.

    • Thanks Carey! The movement in a line has been so ingrained in the children that I’m curious to see if they move in one anyway. It’s hard, as a line definitely helps with accurate counting, but a gathering of sorts might be preferable for the movement. I’m curious to observe and listen. What might kids do without a line? I wonder if our observations will parallel those from other schools. It would be interesting to note similarities and differences.


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