Learning In Line-Ups: Is Waiting Time, “Lost Time?”

The Coronavirus has changed many aspects of school. One big change for Kindergarten to Grade 8 students is the wait time. In order to ensure safety in schools, there are …

  1. slower entry and exits,
  2. socially distanced lines,
  3. and more hand washing and sanitizing.

All of these things take time, and on more than one occasion, I’ve heard educators talking about how this time impacts on their teaching time. Yesterday, I was involved in a couple of conversations about this. As others were chatting with me, I began to wonder, do we need to reconsider the learning potential in this “lost time?”

Even though I’m now a Kindergarten teacher, I have taught Grades 1-6, and I enjoy contemplating how the Kindergarten pedagogy can be applied in other grades. I began to think about that this week when we all came inside at the bell to wash our hands, get sanitized, and transition outside. A group of children noticed the word wall that a child set-up in her space. Soon children were reading the words together, and a second child pointed out her word wall. Would this later lead to the addition of more words or the creation of more word walls around the classroom?

It was in the waiting time that children had the opportunity to observe their environment, connect with each other, think about something new, and even engage in some child-led reading. In other grades, what print around the classroom might children read, discuss, and/or reflect on? Could this inspire learning beyond these wait times?

Using transitional times is something that my teaching partner, Paula, and I have always liked to do for supporting the development of Phonological Awareness skills. Last weekend, I blogged about this topic, and the idea that I shared, is exactly what we did this week.

Kindergarten is not the only grade that focuses on the development of Phonological Awareness skills. In various primary classes, could blending, segmenting, sound substitution, rhyming, and syllable skills be supported orally during an additional sanitization process or two?

Now comes the long, socially distanced walks into the school each morning, during both nutrition breaks, and at the end of the day. Since our Kindergarten class doesn’t stop during nutrition breaks and we dismiss from our classroom at the end of the day, I realize that our wait time is far less intrusive than most. As I mentioned during one of the discussions yesterday, I wonder if we might all be missing the math potential here. What?! From the person who detests line-ups and cannot wait until the day when free entry might be able to exist again, I do see some math learning coming out of all of this waiting.

Could this be the perfect opportunity to explore elapsed time? I remember teaching Grade 5, and how much my students struggled with elapsed time. My vice principal, Kristi, gave me the fantastic idea of kids tracking their time on a project. Making this learning authentic helped children understand the concept more. Plus, with elapsed time becoming an extension of some Social Studies/Language learning, it wasn’t about spending periods on end on elapsed time, but instead, integrating it as part of another couple of subject areas. We could then return to this concept with other projects, and I could support this learning in a more 1:1 way for students that needed it. I think that the same could be true here. Students could track when the bell rings and when they arrive in the classroom. For a more personalized touch, they could track when the bell rings and when they’ve finished washing/sanitizing their hands. How long does this take? How does this time vary over the course of a week? A month? Try connecting through MS Teams with another class — even possibly in a 1:1 setting, with an individual student having a Teams meeting with another student — and comparing results. What are the time differences? Why might they exist?

Could this then become the perfect opportunity for some authentic data management? As the teacher said to me yesterday, this could be a chance for students to record and graph data. How do the results compare over time? What might be possible reasons for fluctuation? What impact does location in the school have on time needed to get to class? There could be wonderful opportunities here to not just record data, but analyze it. I also see this being extrapolated with meaningful links to probability. Once again, it was Kristi who pushed me to look at probability differently when I taught Grade 5, and having students dig into some real data, became a big part of this. Depending on the grade level expectations, spinner and dice games could be replaced with something even more.

Could this become the perfect opportunity for some non-standard measurement? In primary grades, there’s often a look at non-standard measurement, and even comparing non-standard to standard measurement. What are some non-standard ways that students might measure the distance to certain spaces as they travel it? I was thinking that there might be a chance to count footsteps to the entry door, the bathroom, the stairway, and even the classroom door. Even some whisper counting might keep younger students more focused on walking. This could be an opportunity to support oral counting skills, which can be a challenge in younger grades. Recording the total number of steps might even allow for a daily look at place value or even the starting point for a problem involving representing numbers in different ways. If you broke the steps into different areas, depending on the grade, you could also look at adding the total number of steps. There might even be connections here with rounding, estimating, and math strings … all some number sense possibilities. I’m also wondering if it would be the same number of steps each day. Collecting and graphing this data, might also allow for more data management and analyzation possibilities. Students could also personally record their results, and compare results with each other, as does their position in the line and the location of their seating area make a difference? How significant a difference? Definitely more number sense at play here!

Could this become the perfect opportunity to explore mean, median, and mode? Again when I was teaching Grade 5, Kristi had me considering the thinking and application components of mean, median, and mode. At the time, this had me digging into sports, but maybe instead, line waiting, line walking, and hand washing data could be used. Not only do I see opportunities here to compare time, steps, and numbers, but I also see opportunities to dig into these comparisons. Why might results be similar each day? Why might they be different? What are some factors that impact on results? How does this data compare to other numbers across the school and/or across the Board? Maybe classes could connect with each other through MS Teams to share information and reflect on their theories.

As a Kindergarten educator, I realize that I might not be doing any of these things, but I wonder if this might be an opportunity for a little bit of Kindergarten to make its way up in the grades. What are some creative ways that you are using this waiting time? Do your students have any additional ways to suggest? What might be various connections to curriculum expectations? Lines might still be the bane of my existence, but if I can see the learning potential, I think that I can dislike them just a little bit less. What about you?


2 thoughts on “Learning In Line-Ups: Is Waiting Time, “Lost Time?”

  1. Interesting comments and timely. There’s a big concern now for schools in the secondary panel teaching classes in quadmesters where time is so compressed. Check out Tim King’s blog post that Stephen and I chatted about his week and appears in my Friday TWIOE.

    All of the should serve as a reminder that, despite the protestations, schools districts in Ontario have no overall, guiding plan at this time. Districts and teachers are building the ladder as they are climbing it.

    • Thanks for the comment, Doug! I actually read Tim’s blog after you shared it (I do love your TWIOE posts for highlighting the many blogs that I might have missed), and I can see the struggle that secondary teachers are having regarding time. I also think that time is so different in elementary than secondary panels because of the way that courses are outlined and the additional subject, assessment, and evaluation requirements that don’t seem to exist in the other panel. Our Board is not doing a Quadmester model, and now you’re having me wonder if they’re experiencing the same time issues. It would be interesting to have a discussion across Boards on what people are experiencing and if there are ways to make things better.

      Your final comment makes me think again about the need to share our experiences. What are others trying? What’s worked? What hasn’t? While so much seems to be happening in the midst of teaching and learning, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the open sharing between educators and districts that might be more important than ever right now.


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