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Are there any elementary teacher resources that are effective for dealing with a child who runs away from the line on the way to lunch?
I know this can be a serious safety issue that often occurs at the beginning of the school year for the kindergartners and 1st graders. The term "herding cats" comes to mind! (Here's a great overview of normal child development in first graders.) Well, there are some fun things you can do with the whole class that might engage your "runner" in appropriate line behavior.
"Catch me if you can!"
First, however...if this occurs more than a couple times, you need to talk to the parents. Gain their insights on past behavior of the child and let them know you'll be bringing your elementary teacher resources to bear on the issue at school. This is particularly important if the running is leading to unsafe situations (heading off school grounds, for example).
Second...running is not unexpected in early primary students and can be handled with the correct techniques. If you have an older student, 4th grade and above, who is running, then you have a serious situation and need to review the classroom discipline section for ideas and pointers.Third...as outlined in so many places on this site, before the first walk to lunch (or the first walk to anywhere, for that matter), behavior expectations must be set, practiced and reinforced. That's the first step for getting any behavior started down the right path.
TIP: Practice walking in line (and not running away) when the lunch schedule isn't in danger of being disrupted.
For the cases involving primarily just exuberant children, fun approaches are the ideal elementary teacher resources. Be ready though, because you might look silly doing some of these creative teaching ideas!
Make walking to lunch a fun but quiet time for your class. Each day ask students if they think they can do something like tapping their index fingers together while walking. See if they can gently pat their own head quietly while walking. Any little movement to keep their minds occupied could work!
Take a different route to lunch every day. Keeping them guessing keeps them engaged.
Take your entire class on quick strolls on occasion as a practice for line behavior.
Inject some light-hearted humor into the situation. Have the runner be the official "teacher-hand-holder-so-teacher-doesn't-get-lost-again" person. With this one, you get to do some acting with your class. Tell a fanciful tale about how you got lost in the hallway and need someone to hold your hand so it doesn't happen again. Who says elementary teacher resources can't be fun?
As noted above, this is assuming the runner is an early primary student. If it is an older student and they are running away, we have a different issue that hand-holding isn't going to fix!)
Finally, be sure to encourage the runner at every opportunity when she is meeting behavior management expectations.
As outlined on the managing student line-ups page, keep some flash cards on hand to help keep runners wanting to be in line. Word cards, math facts, etc. can make waiting or walking in line engaging and fun...and they help squeeze in a little more teaching and learning.
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