Monday, August 17, 2009

The time it takes to do simple tasks

30 new sixth grade students.

40 minutes.

1 timeline assignment.

Create a timeline.

Place 5 events from this list on the timeline.

Think we finished it?

Think again.

Why does it take so long to accomplish simple tasks? Even my least-needy class, the ones who could fold a piece of paper in half without asking me to check and make sure they did it right, was agonizingly slow in gluing the three pieces of paper together to make a long strip.

My instructions were clear and carefully sequenced. My supplies were ready. My tools were adequate, with the exception of a couple of rulers made by idiots who didn't think to make the quarter-inch lines slightly longer than the eighth-inch lines.

And yet, in 40 minutes, the class just barely managed to read the directions, glue-stick the paper, draw their lines, and label century increments.

So, tomorrow, I'll spend another hour showing them how to place 5 events on the timeline, create sketches to accompany 2 of those events, and write 3-6 sentence descriptions of two events.

Will they finish in an hour? Probably not. But we're going to try!


  1. I had sixth graders who felt that it was a waste of time to use a ruler when making graphs.:) Maybe that's why my hair has to be colored so frequently.

  2. Betty,

    I gave them the whole spiel: "I'm a college-educated adult, and a pretty smart person, and I still use a ruler!" Even then, a couple of kids had timelines that appeared to show that 2000-1900 B.C.E. lasted as long as 100-600 C.E.! I haven't started coloring my hair yet, but somehow I feel it won't be long:)