The Marshmallow Challenge

                I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in “The Marshmallow Challenge” because it forced us to think, try, and learn. First off, this exercise is a hands-on approach to learning. It forces students to get out of their comfortable seats and actually engage in the lesson. It shows students that they can think for themselves. I have seen so many classroom scenarios where the students do not learn to work through problem solving because they know that the teacher will eventually give them the answer. It is important for students to learn how to evaluate a problem, come up with a solution, try it out, and conclude with reexamining the process. The Marshmallow Challenge gives students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

                I think that an important part of this lesson that I want to incorporate in my classroom would be to have students assess and reflect on their experience. What worked? What did not work? What changes would you make to your “Marshmallow Plan” for better results? This challenge also shows students that there is not simply one answer. In education, students fall into a bad textbook habit of rushing through assignments in search of the right answers to complete the assignment as quick as possible. However, this does not teach students how to think critically, ask good questions, and learn that real life is not black and white. The Marshmallow Challenge gives students experience in working with the “grey areas” of problem solving.

The Marshmallow Challenge also gives teachers the opportunity to learn about their students through a “fish bowl” perspective. While students are working through the task, teachers get to watch student interactions with each other. As students communicate with each other, the teacher can see the leaders, the followers, the peacemakers, the class clowns, and the perfectionists. The teachers collect valuable information for future lessons such as who works well together in group projects or what types of learners exist in the classroom. The Marshmallow Challenge has many valuable learning benefits, for both students and teachers alike. To view the experience, go to http://www.schooltube.com/video/28377108f5641f5f5d91/Marshmallow-Challenge-ARC-2.

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Ways To Maximize Student Learning

              I can maximize academic learning time in my classroom by having clear procedures for each student to follow. These expectations have to be taught on the first day of class and practiced by the students until it becomes second nature. I really liked the classroom entry procedures that we went over in class today and want to modify them to fit my style. I like teaching students to enter the classroom respectfully to make a clear difference that our learning space is sacred. The classroom is different from other locations that they will find themselves in throughout the school day. The students need to learn that this difference exists, and that a separate set of actions and behaviors are demanded by the classroom setting.

             I really like the concept of bell work, or “board work” in my case since my school does not have a bell. This maximizes academic learning time because it forces students to start to think in a different mindset the moment they walk into my classroom. By having a task at the beginning of class this also gives me the opportunity to take roll in peace. In my past experience, I have easily wasted valuable learning time by calling out roll at the start of class. In Wong’s video on effective teaching, he highlights the example of a student being absent. In this situation, the entire class erupts in a protest because the student is physically on campus. This has happened to me many times, and I should have learned my lesson early on. The students say, “But Jimmy’s here!” and I say “But he is not in this classroom and in his seat”. We then go back and forth, wasting class time. The board work will not only maximize student learning by getting them to think right away, it will also minimize classroom interruptions that distract from learning.

Learning vs. Teaching

I think an important part in distinguishing learning from teaching is the focus on understanding. In looking solely at teaching, there are no questions that ask if the students are getting it. However, learning demands that there is open communication between student and teacher. This is the opportunity for the teacher to constantly be checking in with the students, and being aware of the different rates of progress in their learning. All students learn in different ways and at different speeds. With this in mind, the focus in education should first and foremost be on the student’s learning, so that teaching is then constructed around learning.

I see that teaching can easily occur without learning becoming the outcome. Learning engages students in classroom activities that have been specifically designed with those students in mind. This type of teacher is continuously assessing student learning while adapting lesson plans to fit the student’s needs. In the video that we watched today, I saw the students actively learning and not simply being “taught”. The learning was distinguished by the students showing understanding of the subject matter and being able to apply it on their own. Phillip implemented the concept of scaffolding well by giving them questions that caused them to think critically about the subject. He actively involved the students by arranging the classroom in a way that would support the depth of discussion that he was hoping for. Throughout the discussion process, Phillip was there the entire time helping students along the way. To move the students along in the right direction he said, “I want to have you talking to each other. I want to hear noise.” Phillip was giving students step-by-step instructions, but enough space to move around in their own thinking. He also gave students consistent encouragement and feedback. He would regulate the discussion and recognize student achievement throughout this process. These students were learning because Phillip was not only teaching, he was leading.