The Best Games to Play in Line

Chew on this: if we line our students up with 3 minutes before the end of class, and we see our students weekly during the school year, we are missing out on over 100 minutes of instruction time! If your classes are 30 minutes long, that’s three weeks of instruction! Make that time count with these games to play while in line. WARNING: Some of these games ask kids to move and talk. You may need to adjust your ideas about what kids should and should not do in line!
Best Games

1. Fantastic Shape

Students silently make shapes with their bodies. The teacher can call out the shapes, or a student needing a reward can direct the action. You can also ask students to work in pairs! If students can’t handle this activity, they can be removed from the line and wait in a seat.

2. Speak-a-Story

Build a tiny tale one word at a time. Each student adds a word to the story as you move down the line. Keep the story art-focused by starting out with phrases like, “The artist…” or “I saw a painting…” Continue moving up and down the line as time permits.

3. Build-a-Drawing

This is similar to the idea above. Instead of a story, start a collaborative, large drawing on the whiteboard. One at a time, students get out of line to add elements to the picture. Kids will stay focused on the evolution of the drawing, rather than on weak behavior choices.

4. Art Memory

Show students in line a piece of art for 10 seconds. Ask kids to name something they saw in the piece one by one until you run out of things remembered. Talk to students about focus and observation being “art muscles” to strengthen. Track their progress and see if the class can improve over time!

5. “How’s yours?”

One students steps outside while the rest of the class agrees upon and item, like a paintbrush. When the student returns, he or she asks each student in line, “How’s yours?” Each student answers: “Bristly,” “Soggy,” etc. until the student guesses the secret item. This game will really help with critique skills when looking for better descriptive words.

How do you keep your kids “in line”?

Any other games to share?


Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Vicky Siegel

    We play the “moving up and back game.” I ask art concept/vocab questions. If students get the answer correct, they move up a spot in line…wrong equals move back 3 spots. They love it and do not really realize they are learning! It is a good way to review your lesson, too. They actually are disappointed if the teacher arrives before we get to start the game!

    • Great game! Kids get so tied up with line orders. This is a great way to mix that up while you sneak some more learning in!

    • K Hyman

      I love this one. You are conducting a formative assessment without them even realizing it. What a terrific way to review the day’s lessons without the kids even realizing it!

      • Exactly! If you had a clipboard, you could mark where students were answering correctly and then use the data to adjust instruction or small groups for next time!

    • Julia Thomas

      Great idea! I’m going to use this recap

    • Laurie Heflin Basham

      love it!

  • Kelley

    I play the statue game. When I say “statue”, they choose a statue pose and must hold it without moving or talking until I say “statue” again. With the older kids I sometimes let them move when I’m not looking and if I catch them, they sit in line until there is one winner or the teacher arrives. With the younger kids, I often tell them what their statue should be and try to relate it to our current lesson (such as “be a horizontal line!” Or “be a caveman from Lascaux!”) They beg me to play it and I love that it keeps them quiet and still. Thank you for the new ideas!

    • Alecia Eggers

      I play the statue game too! The kiddos love it!

  • Sue

    Sometimes I challenge them to SILENTLY line themselves us from shortest to tallest, tallest to shortest.

    • Sue

      That’s up, not us. Ugh.

  • John

    I never line my kids up early. Haven’t done it once in 17 years. I use a countdown timer on my computer which is mirrored on a TV display. It sits on top of whatever images I am showing the kids. We both always know how much time is left by looking at the monitor.

  • Shellr

    I am a substitute teacher. One game that I play with the younger students is sorting them as they line up. I might say, “anyone wearing blue line up”.. then go through colors one at a time.. or maybe by birthday months, or the even birthdates then odd birthdates. I can make it as simple or complex as I want to and customize it to what ever subject I am teaching that particular class. I can even do it spelling bee style or ask each students to use a particular part of speech. If they don’t get it immediately they have to wait till I come back around to them. If the teacher has name cards for the class I will choose a name card then let that student blindly pull the next name card and so on.. This really keeps them quiet so that they can hear what I say as I don’t talk very loudly. I might even keep them in their desks until the bell rings or it is time to leave and then announce what row, group or boys or girls can go first. For my high school students. I take my own dry erase markers and if there is an available dry erase board.. I let the ones who are quiet and finished their work write “Name was here”.. on my board and I will leave it all day until time to leave and then erase it. I never use the teachers supplies for this only my own.

    • Patty Hansen

      I also use the line up your students by Colors, Birthdays,or What they may be wearing (tennis shoes, flip flops, dress shoes, shorts, jeans ect…).
      Once they are in line, to keep the noise down, I introduce my Quiet Sign.
      My Quiet Sing goes like this; I ask my students to mimic me when they are in line. If I clap three times, they will clap three times only without any talking. If I snap my fingers, the students mimic me, if I rub my hands together, my students will rub their hands together, again all without talking. I have used this technique for 18 years and it has worked well for me.

      Patty Hansen

  • Julia Thomas

    Great ideas! Love them all…going to use them!

  • Deanna

    I love these ideas!

  • Liz Brett

    When my elementary classes are ready waiting for their teacher they love to play the ‘Pin Drop’ game… do so they need to close their eyes and be so quiet and still so as to hear the ‘pin’ I drop hit the floor whereupon they raise their hand. I use a paper clip and I only really played it initially to engage kids when a teacher was very late picking her class up…but they fell in love with the game and now ask for it at end of class-even the ‘big’ kids! They like to tell their teachers they were ‘so quiet you could hear a pin drop’ :)

  • Becca Kallem

    These are GREAT! I sometimes do art telephone, having them whisper an art related phrase or sentence down the line…You can do this with shapes that students are to draw on each others backs, if your group can handle not keeping hands to themselves appropriately!