First Days 2013-2014
As one of my first week activities, I used the Marshmallow Challenge.
The website explains it all but basically students are in groups of 4 and have to build the tallest freestanding structure with a marshmallow on top out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, and 1 yard of string in 18 minutes.
I thought this would be a great way to get them feeling more comfortable working in groups and I was right. They were all engaged and no groups quit when their towers fell over. They naturally fell into group roles which will make our next activity of creating those group roles a lot easier.
My tallest tower of the day was 21.5 inches. The average is 20 inches and the all time record is 39 inches. There is a TED talk that sums everything up but basically kids do better than adults because they play and build prototypes and use the marshmallow the whole time. Adults spend most of the time planning and use the marshmallow at the end which leaves them no time to fix it when it falls.
After the video I asked the students why they thought I chose to do this activity in a math class and I was happy with their responses: to make them think, team work, to help them communicate, help them be independent, to problem solve, etc.
I felt like it a was a great representation of the things I try to accomplish in my classroom throughout the year. It took up about 40 minutes and it was fun.
I got to be hands off while the students got to be hands on.