Third grade is a period of transition for our young students. They learn that their brains can work in ways they did not think possible. Mistakes help us learn. This is our Growth Mindset.
We build relationships by changing our seats often, so we can get to know each other better. The last two times we changed desks, the students worked together on the “Marshmallow Challenge”. This challenge requires students to work together to create the tallest freestanding tower. This is not an easy task when given only spaghetti noodles, string, tape, and one large marshmallow.
The first time they attempted this activity, students were not quite sure how to get the spaghetti to stand on its own or how to make it any taller than the longest noodle. While several groups were unsuccessful in even creating a “tower”, they worked together and listened to each other’s ideas (an important goal for any team challenge!)
Last week Mrs. Manjares (the district’s math coach) and I read JoAnn Deak’s book, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain. While the main focus was to teach the students that making mistakes and learning from them is an important strategy in math class, we discussed the idea of stretching and growing our brains when I assigned this Marshmallow Challenge a second time to new teams.
The students impressed me with the change with both their attitude and problem solving skills. Students worked together and were conscientious to make adaptations to strategies they had tried last time. The dialogue among the students also impressed me. “No, remember last time that didn’t work.” and “Let’s try it this way.” “No one tried that last time.” could be heard throughout the classroom.
Students began to think and grow from their mistakes. Now we know our “fantastic elastic brain” can grow and change!