Get a Quiet Line Every Time!

Clean up and line up can be the toughest parts of a class period for any art teacher.  Consequently, they are also the parts of class where there is the most movement, action and noise. Yikes! Although I have some pretty good structures in place for art room helpers and clean up, I think large classes and a small room combined with movement and mess are a recipe for disaster no matter how you look at it.

Around this time of year, students can become apathetic. They can also become immune to the sound of the teacher’s voice. They are cooped up, ready for spring and a little too comfortable with basic routines. In my case, they hear me reminding, harping, and instructing and soon, they just stop listening. So, I thought to myself, “What could I do to tap into different types of learning styles to assist with a quiet line up after a sometimes-crazy clean up?”  Then it came to me.

What about a visual cue instead of a verbal one?!

I have tables labeled by color. So, as clean up is winding down, I simply held up a color card of a table I noticed that was sitting quietly. Those students could line up. The students had to look up at me. For some reason, this stopped a lot of talking. It was kind of suspenseful which card I would hold up next. I’ve successfully tried this technique for one week and it went smoothly each time. I am amazed how it engaged the students in a different way. When the cue is verbal, students respond verbally. When the cue is non-verbal, students respond without voices. Try it!

I would like to get a handy little plastic wall pocket to keep right inside my door so I can grab the cards each time. I also want to add to this pocket some review questions and quick formative assessments that I can grab and review with students while they are in line.  The second all the kids are lined up quietly I jump into a review question. This doesn’t give them a chance to get chatty before they go into the hall.

What are some techniques you use to line up your kiddos without a peep?

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Dale Parker

    I checked out the link you shared for Smart Classroom Management and I decided to revamp my management at this point in the school year. We have had a change in admin this year and the overall behavior has really changed in a negative way. Our principal has left very little to use as consequences which is one reason I thought the plan from SC Management would work at my school

    I introduced this last Monday and I did not have a lot of comment from the students except for the ” what if”? (insert your choice of excuse here) That’s the good thing about this plan being swift and simple. There is no what if.

    Anyway I have used the same rules you listed and the same consequences. This week I did give several warnings once. Then a few less time outs, and only 4 letters home. Out of 500+ very unruly children I thought that was very good. I chose not to use this discipline plan quite as strictly in my EC class because even though they understand the term ” raise your hand”, they don’t quite grasp the concept. With only 5 kids in the class it is doable to give more warnings in this case. I had only one other class it did not work as well and I’m not sure exactly why. They may have just thought I was not serious, but I think it will work with them in time.

    Thanks for the link! I enjoy many blogs from art teachers and the lessons going on in their classes, but your blog addresses many of all the other things we do as art teachers too.

    • Dale, I appreciate your comments and I am so glad you are trying the management plan. I know this plan isn’t totally fool-proof, but it’s a great starting point. I get great enjoyment about helping myself and other teachers refine the little things that can really make a difference in their art room, in addition to new lesson ideas. It sure sounds like you are doing some great things, keep it up!

  • Using your color cards to recognize your quietest tables first, you could also add a question that the table group would have to answer correctly to line up. It’s a great ‘closure’ activity that reviews material/objectives/vocabulary covered in that day’s class. Tables tend to quiet down to hear questions…
    I’ll be posting some examples on my blog (handsheadnheart@blogspot) in the next week. Worked great during my evaluation/observation this past Thursday…

  • I will have to give the cards a try. I do the exact same thing, but verbally. I want to see how this technique effects my classes. Thanks for sharing!

  • I cannot wait to try this next week! I call out table colors for lining up also, however, the students are usually so loud they do not hear me. Thanks for the suggestion! Vicki

  • I’m so excited to try this technique. Thanks!

    • Hi Everyone-
      Let me know how it works for you! I am very happy you found the suggestion helpful!

  • Heather C

    We start the year learning/reviewing the rainbow colors in sign language. I can then call my tables by their color using sign language. I tell them they have to use their eyes (not always a verbal cue.) They love it!! I sometimes call them by the color clothing they are wearing, again a silent way to line up. I use my color signs throughout the day for many different things.

    We also learn black, white, brown, gold and pink. I introduce the signs and read Brown Bear, Brown Bear with my kinders in August.

  • Elizabeth

    A few tips to get your class in line..

    -My art students enjoy lining up by answering questions that review what we have just studied. If a question is answered correctly, a student gets to line up.
    -Pull out a reproduction out and call on a student to make a comment on it before getting in line.
    -Questions that answer facts or opinions about an artist or art process are also fun.

    When I’m in a hurry, there’s always the birthday month or “If you are wearing stripes you may get in line…” call. :)

  • Sarah

    How is it that I have used colors for my tables for so long and yet NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS??? DUH! I’ve got little lightbulbs popping around my head….

    • IT WORKS! I brought it back this week (first week of school) and it was like magic. You’ll see!!

  • I really like the idea of non-verbal cues. I find attracting the pupils’ attention at the end of a session to clear up, hugely frustrating as I often end up shouting to be heard above the noise. I will definitely try this as my pupils also use different tables.


  • Less talking always means more listening! Great IDEA!!!!

  • Connie

    GREAT idea!!!!

  • Mary

    Awesome idea!! Going to try it tomorrow! Think I’ll put them on a key ring and a command hook by the door for easy grabbing. Thanks!

  • Deborahdq

    has anyone tried the color cues in high school – mainly 9th grade?