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Six-year-olds can’t tell time

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Today I remembered that six-year-olds can’t tell time  and that I can totally use that against them.  Tired of asking the class to stand up, line up, or go to their tables and having them meander, divert or ignore, I decided to spend most of our morning meeting practicing standing up on cue, sitting down on cue, and going to our tables on cue.  The first time we practiced standing up they were simply awful at it.  Three kids remained sitting until I specifically called them by name, while one kid wandered away.  By the time they were all standing I was exasperated.  Hands on hips, I decided to make things up: “That took at least 37 seconds!” I exclaimed.  “We should be able to do it in 15 seconds.  I think we need to try again.  Do you think we can get down to 15 seconds this time?”  A chorus of six-year-old voices yelled “YES!”  So they sat down and we practiced standing up again.  “Hmm…a little better,” I said, “we got down to 22 seconds.  But I think you can do it faster, don’t you?”  And so we went, up and down, up and down, enthusiastically racing against the pretend clock.

At no point in this exchange did I actually time them.  Safe in the knowledge that they have no concept of time, I made up whatever numbers I thought would motivate them.  And it worked.  They stayed fully engaged, racing against the times I called out as they practiced moving around our room.

I know some teachers say they love upper elementary school students because you can do so much more with them, but I don’t think anything beats the cheerful, eager-to-please cluelessness of a six-year-old.

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