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Captain’s Coming – Classroom Management Exercise

High school drill team performing in uniform on a football field.

Table of Contents

Classroom management starts when a class gets picked up from the yard in the morning. I have seen many teachers go to their class lineup area, tell the kids to follow, and then proceed to turn around and lead them back to class without ever turning around to see how students behave in line.

I always teach my class waypoints around campus during the first few days of school. This way I can tell the line leaders to go to point “A,” and they will guide the class to that predetermined place. I then follow the class. This way, students are less likely to fool around in line, and I can see what they are up too. How students behave on the way to class sets a tone for how they will behave in class.

Over twenty years ago, I taught at a Kindergarten through 8th-grade school. Every day a middle school PE teacher would have his class walk by my room. His classes were huge. Often over 80 kids, sometimes he had the whole grade level! The kids were always perfectly respectful and well-disciplined with this teacher. The teacher, Mr. Menard, never yelled and was always very professional. The kids loved him. 

I asked him how he taught the kids to be so well-behaved and disciplined. He told me that besides being a PE teacher, he was the school’s Drill Team Coach. He said he applied his knowledge from coaching drill teams to his classroom management. He taught me a game that is often used to teach drill team students in preparation for “drill down” competitions.  

I have taught this game to my class every year since then. The kids love it; it teaches them the basics of following directions.

The Game: Captains Coming

“Captain’s Coming” is a popular game often used in drill and marching band rehearsals to help participants improve their discipline, listening skills, and ability to respond quickly to commands. While it’s not necessarily a game designed solely for drill teams, it can be used in various precision-based performance groups, including drill teams, marching bands, and military units. The game is similar to “Simion Says”.

The adaptation of this game as I play it with my students is as follows:

Formation:

The participants stand in formation, usually on a parade ground or a practice area. I usually teach the absolute basics of the game in class with the kids standing at their chairs. If in class, we only use a few commands. I also teach it when kids are in line, outside. This is when more commands can be used. The older the students the more commands can be used. Descriptions of commands are at the bottom of this post.

Caller (Captain):

One person, often the drill instructor or a designated leader (the “Captain”), gives out a series of commands. 

Commands:

The Captain starts by saying “Captains Coming”. This comand “locks the students in place at attention. Students stand straight with their feet together and their hands at their sides. They can not move until I say “at ease”. When a student is “at ease” they are standing quietly with their feet slightly apart and their hands behind their back (or at their waist, this can be adjusted). The “Captain” then proceeds to give commands, starting each command with (e.g., “about face!”). The participants must follow the command immediately and execute the required action.

Response:

The participants must respond to each command quickly and accurately. They might be eliminated from the round if they hesitate, make a mistake, or fail to execute the command correctly.

Elimination:

Participants who make mistakes or fail to respond properly to a command are usually asked to step out of the formation, and the game continues with the remaining participants. The game continues until only one participant remains, who is then declared the winner of that round.

“Captain’s Coming” helps participants develop a strong sense of discipline, focus, and the ability to listen and react swiftly to commands, which are essential skills for members of precision-based performance groups. It also adds an element of fun and competition to rehearsals, encouraging participants to improve their skills in a dynamic and engaging way.

While the specific commands and rules of the game can vary depending on the group and the instructor, the core concept of using commands to test and improve participants’ precision and responsiveness remains consistent.

Commands:

  1. Captain’s Coming (or Attention!) – This command is used to bring participants to the standard attention position. They stand straight, heels together, toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle, arms straight at the sides, and fingers extended and joined.
  2. At Ease!: This command allows participants to relax while still maintaining a basic posture. They can shift their weight, move their hands slightly, and but should remain in place.
  3. About Face!: Participants turn 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. They pivot on their right foot while simultaneously lifting their left foot and turning on the ball of the right foot.
  4. Right Face!: Participants turn 90 degrees to the right by pivoting on their left foot and stepping with their right foot to complete the turn.
  5. Left Face!: Similar to “Right Face,” participants turn 90 degrees to the left by pivoting on their right foot and stepping with their left foot.
  6. Submarine: Students squatt down, and stay there until the next command is stated.
  7. Port: Students slide on step to the left.
  8. Starboard: Students slide on step to the right.
  9. March: Participants march in place, lifting their left foot on the command.
  10. Forward March!: Participants start marching forward, lifting their left foot on the command.
  11. Halt!: Participants stop marching immediately and come to a standstill.

More Advanced Commands

– I don’t usually teach these other commands but other teachers may want to.

  1. Mark Time!: Participants march in place, lifting each foot alternately as if marching forward, but without actually moving forward.
  2. Change Step!: If participants were previously marching in a regular step (left foot forward), they switch to a mirrored step (right foot forward) and vice versa.
  3. Column Left (or Right)!: Participants march to the left (or right) in a single-file column.
  4. Column Half Left (or Right)!: Participants turn 45 degrees to the left (or right) while marching, creating a diagonal line.
  5. To the Rear, March!: Participants perform an about-face turn while continuing to march, effectively reversing their direction.
  6. Double Time!: Participants begin marching at a faster pace, taking two steps for every beat instead of one.
  7. Single File, Forward March!: Participants march in a single-file line, one after the other.
  8. Double File, Column Left (or Right)!: Participants march in pairs, with each pair side by side. The pairs march to the left (or right) in columns.
  9. Double File, Column Half Left (or Right)!: Similar to the above, but the pairs turn 45 degrees to the left (or right) while marching.
  10. Squad Right (or Left)!: The formation is divided into squads, and one squad turns 90 degrees to the right (or left) while marching.
  11. Eyes Right (or Left)! Participants briefly turn their heads to the right (or left) while marching to acknowledge an observer or salute.
  12. Right (or Left) Flank, March!: Participants turn 90 degrees to the right (or left) while maintaining their marching formation.
  13. Counter March!: Participants perform a 180-degree turn as a group, marching in opposite directions.
  14. Right (or Left) Oblique, March!: Participants turn 45 degrees to the right (or left) while continuing to march.
  15. Diagonal Forward Right (or Left), March!: Participants move diagonally forward to the right (or left) while marching.
  16. Diagonal Rearward Right (or Left), March!: Participants move diagonally backward to the right (or left) while marching.
  17. Halt! Salute!: Participants stop marching and execute a salute.
  18. Present Arms!: Participants bring their instruments or arms to a specified presentation position, usually at chest height.
  19. Order Arms!: Participants return their instruments or arms to the resting position.
  20. At Ease! Rest!: Participants can relax in place  but remain relatively still and quiet.
  21. Parade Rest!: Participants stand at ease but with their left foot slightly moved to the left, hands behind their backs, and heads facing forward.
  22. Dismissed!: Participants are released from formation and allowed to leave.

These commands form the foundation of the “Captain’s Coming” game, and variations can be added to make the game more challenging and engaging.

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