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Grade K-2, 3-5

Lean on Me — We depend on each other!

Updated: October 16 2017,
Author: Abbejean Kehler


Imagine that you are doing the same task over and over, day after day, year after year. You, along with many other people young and old are part of an invention called the assembly line. You help make toys. Without everyone doing their job and putting on the right part, the toys won’t work. If this happens, they will have to be sent back to be reassembled. Today, you are going to replicate an assembly line and all that is included in it. You will see how one works, how you have to depend on others to get a job accomplished fast, and how people do different jobs on an assembly line.

Task List

lineIn this lesson, you will learn about specialization and why assembly lines are used. You will learn how people who produce goods can save money by dividing big tasks up into smaller ones and having workers specialize in performing the smaller tasks. Then, you will perform a series of activities, find out how much time it would take to complete the task, and begin to understand that specialization enables people to save time.


Do factories only have one person working in them? Or, do they have many people working in them? Would it be faster for one person to do all of the steps in making a toy, or would it be faster for many people only doing one task and becoming very good at it? When you think of many people doing a separate task, this is called the division of labor. Division of labor occurs when the production of a good is broken down into many separate tasks, with different workers performing each task. But, how fast could factory workers work if they didn't know how to do their task very well? In order to make production efficient, people must be specialized. When people are specialized, they do one specific task very well and very efficiently. Specialization and division of labor usually increase productivity of workers. Greater specialization leads to increasing interdependence among producers and consumers.

Activity 1:

You will reassemble boxes of crayons. One group of students will each do the task themselves and the other group will organize themselves as an assembly line, and specialize.

Your teacher will divide you into groups of four or five. But, before you divide into groups, all of you need to arrange your chairs and desks to form a common work surface. Your teacher will place one box of crayons per student on each table. After the teacher has set the box on each table, open the boxes and spill the contents in a large pile in the middle, mixing up the crayons as they add more. Carefully unfold the box so that it is flattened. crayon box

Your individual task is to put one box of crayons back together. Your teacher will time your efforts. When you have finished raise your hand and your teacher will record the time on the board and of each group's time as well. When all the boxes have been reassembled please remain quiet and seated until your teacher is done tallying up the scores.

Look at how long it took each of you to find the crayons you needed, and put them back into their box. Whew! Maybe there is a way to do it faster and easier. Can you think of a way? If you can't think of ways, check out the tip sheet for some ideas.

Activity 2:

There are two ways you may use this activity — either as a hand-out and cut-out or work on the computer using the drop and drag activity.

Your teacher will pass out a series of pictures. The first picture in the series shows a consumer using a good or service that is the end result of the other four pictures, each of which illustrates a step in the production of the good or service. These steps are not in the right order – your task is to cut the pictures out and paste them on the next page in the correct order. When you have completed this, check with your teacher to see if you have put them in the right sequence. Click on the following for a printed copy of the activities. Order Activity One, Order Activity Two , Order Activity Three

Drag and Drop Activity

Activity 3:

Lesson Extension with assembly line

ingredientsIn this activity you will be making cookies for everyone in the class. But, before you start making the cookies, there are some questions that you need to answer. How many students are there in the class? How big can each cookie be? How many pairs of gloves are there? What will be everyone's task? After you have answered these questions, you can begin making your cookies!


Now that we have completed the tasks, each of us should be able to list a number of goods and services that we use every day that requires the work of others. We should be able to explain why an assembly line makes the production more efficient and faster than working alone. We should also be able to explain what happens when one member either can not do the job or is not there and explain the impact that they have upon production.

Assessment Activity

Answer the following questions, you may work by yourself or with a partner.

View Interactive Activity

  1. Whom do you depend on for a loaf of bread?
  2. Whom do you depend on for chocolate chip cookies?
  3. Whom do you depend on for store movies?
  4. Whom do you depend on for oil in vehicles?
  5. Name three workers who help you make your bread.
  6. Name three steps in making the bread.

Extension Activity

Go to the and pick a coloring page to complete.