The Power of Red Line

The Power of Red Line-01

Whenever children entered the circle time area, I would have them stand on the red line.  “Red Line” was strips of red tape on the tile floor.  Red Line served two purposes:

  • Red line was a physical transition between the previous activity and circle time.
  • Red line allowed children to settle down their bodies.

On Red Line, children placed both feet on the red tape, both arms rested at their sides, mouths were closed, and eyes were on me.  As they stood, I slowly rose my hand.  I stopped my arm until my hand was flat.  I told the children…

Me: “Wait for my hand to move, then you can come in and sit down.”

Is it okay for children to stand long periods without moving?  Absolutely not.  I wasn’t waiting for them to show perfect posture.  I was waiting for their bodies to calm down.

During the first and second week of school I waited one second before I moved my hand.  I was teaching the children the gesture.  Plus, during the first week, there’s lot’s of crying.  No need to push it.

During the third week of school, I upped the ante.  Any child that entered the circle before my hand moved was sent back to Red Line.  No one could enter before I moved my hand.

After the third week, the major components of the routine was set:

  1. Stand on Red Line
  2. Wait for my hand to move (no matter how long it took)
  3. When my hand moved, you may have a seat on the carpet.


Now comes the major power Red Line; the major social-emotional goal they would learn.  Calmness and patience.   I just had to keep my hand still.

I started with one second before I moved.

Then two seconds.

Maybe the second month of school, five seconds…

…longer then longer then longer…

Remember, it’s not about waiting or showing the correct “posture.”  Waiting is all about calming down your body.  Most importantly, the children were responding positively.

As children waited, I gave compliments…

Me: “I like the way Ikira is standing still.  His eyes are on me.  His body is calm.  Thank you Ikira.”

Of course, other children want praise too…

Me: “Oh, I like the way Mariposa is standing on red line now.  She saw what Ikira was doing.  She is showing me that’s she’s ready to go sit down for circle.”

Other children needed support…

Me: “Pauly. Bobby. Let’s calm our bodies down.  Breathe with me…. 1… 2… 3… The air goes in slowly to slow down our hearts and our bodies.  Then breathe out.  Slow down so we can calm down.”

Four months later…

Me: “Look at all of the boys and girls. They are standing very nicely on red line.”  (raise hand)

Children: (waiting)

Counting…one second… two…three…

Me: (flat hand, perfect still)

Children: (looking at hand, perfectly still)

six… seven…

Me: (hand, not a shake)

Children: (bodies, not a move)


Me: (the hand moves)

Children: (smiling, laughing, they walk and  jump, landing criss-cross applesauce on their spot on the carpet)

Depending on the make-up of the class, I can go longer.   Some years, I never made it to ten.  But, it was always awesome to see 16 children standing on red line – calmly and patiently – waiting for my hand move.


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