The sandglass runs for 22 minutes. I’ve timed it three or four occasions to be sure.
In my -2b section, the writers are all over the room. Two have their heads down in despair or thought or sleep. One is playing with her notebook in frustration. Three are chewing on their pencils. One is carefully blackening the margin of the page.
Three kids have written over five pages apiece.
The goal is flow. Can you sit down, check the assignment, and write for 22 minutes without stopping? Is what you write any good? Can it be used to assess your writing skill? Would you want to let anyone else read it? How would you know?
It’s incredibly difficult for most students in ninth grade. In any grade. But if you can’t write well and fast, school becomes increasingly difficult for you as time goes on. The writing methodology doesn’t matter — pen and paper, paper and pencil, typewriter, word processor, computer, wiki software… if you can’t reach the point of producing flow, if you have think hard about every word… it’s painful to watch kids go through that.
The hourglass seems to help. They can look up and see the falling sand, estimate how much time there is left, and how much has passed. It’s amazing to me that a simple analog tool like this (analog? Isn’t it proto digital – a sand-mote is either above the neck or below it?) can help so many kids so rapidly.