Roasting Hillsides and Marshmallows


The first day of school was like Christmas downgraded to Groundhog Day.  We were in the locale of the Pilot Fire.  The sky was orange; the air was smoke-filled; the children were scared; we were locked inside except to go get lunch and use the restroom. And yet, we began as best we could. Big chunks of my plans were cancelled. No problem. They hadn’t read my plans.  We got to know each other. We created. We did some GoNoodle so we wouldn’t lose ours. Then we went home. For two days.

Ultimately what that means is that we had the first day of school all over again on Thursday, which was also Back to School Night. Does that make me cry? Nope. I broke out The Marshmallow Challenge I had intended to do on the first day.  It was fun and the best tool I have ever used to get to know my students. I saw immediately who my “leaders” were, who was quietly thoughtful, who cooperates naturally and who does not, and so on and so forth.  All of that information is very helpful, but that is not the best part.

When time was up on the challenge, we had zero towers standing. Zero. One student said, “We didn’t make it, but we had fun!” But wait, there’s more! We came together to talk about the experience, and create a circle map about group work. Beforehand, we watched the TED talk about the Marshmallow Challenge. Some of it didn’t apply to them, but the main concepts did.  Reflecting on the talk and their own experiences, they came up with some ideas. They told me they learned that to be successful they needed to listen to each other, to try every person’s idea with no one trying to be the boss, they needed to persevere (word of the day), and they needed to be kind to each other. I was a happy teacher. We celebrated our failure at towers and success in learning by eating marshmallows, of course.




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