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Order in the Halls

Can — and should — kids pass silently?

Denise asks:

How can I get my fifth-graders to comply with the demands of school personnel who want children to walk single file with zero noise? It just doesn’t happen. Body parts jump and wiggle, girls buddy up and talk, some students run.

Kate Ortiz:

I dealt with this issue frequently with seventh-graders. I made it clear [that] agreement with the rule is not required, but compliance is. When someone was not complying, I moved to them or said their name and signaled for them to stop. If they didn’t, I moved them to the end of the line. Frequent noncompliance meant placement next to me or at the end for a given number of hallway trips. If too many were noncompliant, we practiced. I found these methods successful, even though kids sometimes needed reminders because they are kids.

But zero noise sounds unreasonable to me. My teaching team sometimes changed our single-file passing rule to two together with quiet voices, which worked much better. We realized we generally walked down the hallways that way ourselves!


I, too, fought for years trying to make my 35 10-year-olds meet the admin’s demands for walking in lines, but I finally refused. I told my principal single-file lines were not a good idea with 35 students. I offered him three lines, arm’s length apart, with specially-trained line leaders. I promised the lines would be quiet and I worked with my kids until they were. We don’t have that single-file rule anymore.

Kate S:

My administrators think our hallways are fine, but our 800 kids run around like gorillas during passing periods. Be thankful you have someone in charge who wants a safe system for moving in the halls. I’ve had limited success with Follow the Leader on the way to our destination: If

I hop, they hop, etc. Since I change moves quickly, they have to pay attention. It does give them their chance to wiggle.


Keeping silent for the 45 seconds students are in the hallway is not unreasonable. I am a fifth-grade teacher and this has always been my policy. It teaches students to be considerate. Often when we are passing, other classes are in session. I explain my expectations and, yes, we practice at the beginning of the year—and again if I feel my lines are falling apart.

I do not yell. I simply say, “Oops, let’s do that again.” Often, the excitement stems from eagerness to get where they are going. Since they are anxious to get there, they shape up quickly.

For older students, you can also reason with them, explaining the distraction to other students currently in class.


My students are not perfect and I don’t expect them to be. Sometimes they talk to me, and some-times I talk to them—it happens. But because of my expectations for them, they are not yelling, running, or even talking to those in front or in back of them.

I don’t practice walking in the hallway, I think it’s a waste. I’ve seen it done too many times by others, and nothing changes. I ask for silence. Do I always get it? No. Do I get it most of the time? Yes.

My principal also reinforces the quiet line with praise—they love that!


I like an orderly school as much as any-one, but the idea of a silent, single line kind of scares me. I have seen photos of young Nazis and young Communists, and they were very orderly. We are a country that celebrates freedom. Students need the freedom to socialize and have a bit of fun as they move between classes. The challenge is to teach them a sensible limit.

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Kate Ortiz, a teacher and classroom management expert from Chariton, Iowa, responds to every question posted online within 24 hours and many other colleagues contribute, too.

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