Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer
Put a room for of adults into small groups and give each group 10 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, 1 marshmallow, a set of guidelines and 18 minutes and what do you get? TEAMWORK, COLLABORATION, TRIAL and ERROR, THOUGHTFUL DIALOGUE, and FUN!
The Marshmallow Challenge was recently used during our first Teacher Leadership Network session. Coaches from area schools came together for a morning of learning, sharing, networking and goal setting. We opened with the Marshmallow Challenge and it was a hit!
After the 18 minutes were complete, standing structures were measured and kudos were given to the winning team. We had several standing at the end of the 18 minutes, complete with whole marshmallow on top, and a few that even lasted the rest of the morning. One structure slowly took its fall midway during the morning followed by a collective sigh. It was intriguing to watch the various ways teams carried out the task. Some spent considerable amounts of time planning. Some dove right in and one team took to the internet for some research.
We then had groups discuss How is the design of your structure similar to or different from your Teacher Leader (instructional coaching) program? Participants noted the levels of collaboration and teamwork in their schools programs. They also mentioned that coaches draw upon each others strengths just as they did during the challenge. Some noted the planning that went into developing their program while others mentioned the need for further planning and focus. We ended this portion of the morning with viewing the TED Talk by Tom Wujec which I highly recommended – both if you plan to facilitate your own challenge and with your challenge participants. You can view Wujec’s TED Talk on The Marshmallow Challenge website. This link takes you to the talk, the transcripts and a PDF of the slides used during the TED Talk.
Participants seemed to embrace the hands on, inquiry based activity that led to deeper reflection than if we had just posed a reflective question about their programs. The challenge served as what Jim Knight calls a thinking device/prompt. Jim shares that “thinking prompts are provocative objects we share with students (or adults) to create lively conversations in the classroom (or professional learning setting) in his blog post entitled Finding Thinking Prompts. For more information on Thinking Devices/Prompts see pages 31-33 of Dr. Knight’s Partnership Learning Fieldbook or in the book High Impact Instruction. We also have a page on the #educoach Wiki devoted to Thinking Devices/Prompt started when the group discussed the book High Impact Instruction. Feel free to join the Wiki and add your own ideas to the page! The Wiki is meant to be a collaborative, crowd sourced site for instructional coaches!
What types of thought provoking activities have you used with teachers or coaches?
What benefits are there to using this type of activity rooted in a thinking device/prompt?
I’d love to hear your ideas!
If you haven’t tried the Marshmallow Challenge, it may be a good one to tie to your own content. It can even be done with students as you will learn when you watch the TED Talk. Take time to watch it NOW!
This post is part of the #educoach blogging challenge! To find out more about the challenge please see my earlier post Get Ready for the #educoach Blog Challenge.