Friday, August 23, 2013

Marshmallow Challenge!!!

   I felt I was getting long winded on the previous post and needed to split up my reflections on the first two days.  At the end of Day 1 we closed with students participating in the Marshmallow Challenge.  We put students in groups of 3-4 students with 20 pieces of fettuccine, 1 yard of string, 1 yard of tape, and 1 marshmallow.  We allowed students to choose their groups.  As you can imagine, led to a mixed bag of output.  Some groups got right to work and had a plan while others thought about ways to look like they were building but really were wanting to chomp on the marshmallow.
   Once all groups got on task, I loved hearing the buzz of students talking and trying to figure out how to build the tallest tower.  Some groups showed an understanding of geometry and formed triangles to build stability.  Others found ways to modify the string and tape to hold up the fettuccine as you would nail 2x4s into a new Palmetto tree to hold it in place.  Watching their interactions helped me see how they think and which students were natural leaders, active listeners willing to work, and those who needed more guidance on how to effectively communicate with group members.  Not everyone built a tower that could stand but I that was not the point of the activity.   I plan to allow students to retry this challenge later in they year.  I  hope to see growth in their ability to work with classmates and evidence that they know concepts and strategies that will help them work better in the process of constructing a tower.
      When we debriefed, I wanted students to see that learning is not only achieved at the end but can occur during the "process."  This is a shift in thinking for students and for teachers.  Getting students to shift to this mindset will help them in our classes as they take on future problem based activities.  I hope they will have lower anxiety on assignments too.  Students are pressured to perform and when so much pressure is put on what is produced they tend to revert to a "getting it done" or a "I give up" mentality and not has well as their ability level.  We have to show students we want them to learn.   I am not saying that the end product has no value but if we do not show students by how we set up assignments that we value the process as much if not more than the end product we will not get their buy in.  I have found ways to apply this idea but am still learning and tinkering with how I can make the process of learning more enjoyable and less stressful.  I want my students' brains to hurt with my work but I want it to be because they have to think about solutions.  I do not want their head to hurt due to stress over what their parents are going to say if they make a low grade. Enjoy the pictures of the "process" and some of the finished towers.  Please share your opening day experiences and what you have found helps get your students excited about the new school year.  As always, do your best!

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