Activity: Walk the Line (or Cross the Line)

This is a common activity to build understanding, give voice to identities, and find common ground.

Photo of Lori Fitzmaurice
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You can find this in many places. But here's a general guideline. 

(From Operation Respect website)

Introduce the activity:

“This activity is called “Cross the Line” and asks us to remember experiences we’ve had where we may have been treated badly or unkindly.”

Explain some important agreements you’ll need to make as a class before beginning:

  • We will do the activity in complete silence (no laughing or talking); we can talk about it when it’s over.
  • Some strong feelings might come up like sadness or anger. Remember, all feelings are important. We need to be respectful and caring about one another’s feelings so that everyone feels safe while we do this activity.

Ask everyone to move to the masking tape line on the floor facing in the same direction behind it. Explain how to do the activity:

“I’m going to call out an experience and if you have had that experience, please cross the line and turn around to face the students on the other side of the line. If you do not feel comfortable crossing the line, even though you are part of that group, that’s okay. You can stay right where you are and notice any feelings you are having.”

For each experience you call out, people who have had that experience will cross the line. They will then turn around to face the students who have not crossed the line. When you tell the group that crossed the line to return, they will return to their original places on the other side of the tape, so that the entire group is standing together once more.

After each of the “cross the line” categories, you will:

1) Pause until the students who have crossed the line have turned to face the other students;

2) Then you will say: “Now notice how it feels to cross the line and notice how it feels to watch other people cross the line (pause.) Notice who is with you (pause). Notice who is not with you (pause);”

3) Ask everyone to come back together behind the masking tape.


I…
___ played sports in high school
___ have traveled to a country that speaks a language other than English
___ got picked on in school
___ am the first person in my family to go to college
___ was a leader in high school
___ got suspended from school
___ was rejected from a college I wanted to attend
___ have grandparents that were born outside of the United States
___ have/had an eating disorder/problem
___ have a learning challenge
___ have a step parent
___ take medication on a daily basis for health reasons
___ have broken someone’s heart
___ have caught myself judging someone before I even met them
___ have dated someone outside of my race
___ have raised-grown-killed food for my consumption
___ has a friend or family member who has been sexually assaulted or raped
___ have experienced privileges that people of other races don’t
___ have been followed around a store when I shopped
___ have been the target of a racist comment
___ abandoned my faith at some point in my life
___ know the meaning of an upside down pink triangle
___ have had someone close to me die
___ love someone who has been or is in jail
___ have danced/entered a gay bar
___ have been asked to answer for my entire race; as if I was the “expert”
___ have a friend or family member, or I have thought about or attempted suicide
___ have someone that I love effected by alcoholism
___ am close to someone who is homosexual
___ have a friend for family member, or I was abused as a child
___ feel comfortable walking down the street holding hands with my partner
___ have been on welfare or social services
___ depend on financial aid to attend college (Tullis 2004 - listing) 


Debrief: 

Process in the large group:

What feelings did you have during this activity?

What was the hardest part for you?

What did you learn about yourself? About others? What do you want to remember about what we’ve just experienced?

What, if anything, do you want to tell others about this experience?”

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Photo of Karen Milczynski
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I do this with my students (11th/12th graders) and they say it's one of the most eye opening activities they've ever done.

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