Friday, March 6, 2015

The Marshmallow Test

I stopped by the first grade teachers team meeting last week and asked them which social emotional skills their students are struggling the most with.  All 3 teachers, almost in unison, replied with "SELF CONTROL!"  So, I began searching for the best lesson in self control I could find...and I stumbled across an old favorite, The Marshmallow Test.  It was a fascinating study done in the 1960s at Stanford University (if you google it there are tons of articles about it) where they had preschoolers sit in a room alone with a marshmallow for up to 20 minutes.  If they ate it, that was all they got.  If they waited until the researcher came back, they earned a second marshmallow.  This longitudinal study predicted higher SAT scores, lower BMI scores and various other themes when they followed up with the students that waited for the second marshmallow.

I wondered how our first graders would do with this marshmallow test.  Who would eat the marshmallow?  Who would wait?  I had to do it.  First, I  checked our student's allergy list.  Then, I came into each classroom and I simply explained the marshmallow test.  You could choose to eat it now, or you could choose to wait until the end of my lesson (in 30 minutes) and receive a second marshmallow.  I passed them out and began the hilarious video below:

While the video aired and students laughed, I watched to see how they were doing.  Some were playing with their marshmallow, some hiding it under a tissue, one even zipped it up into their binder.  After the video I introduced the topic: Self Control.  What is self control?  How do we know when we have self control?  Is self control easy?  We brainstormed ideas to help us with self control and I showed them this poster (found here):

I went through each step carefully and students modeled how they have shown self control in the past.  Then I put them through a challenge to see how well they could show self control (in addition to those yummy marshmallows sitting on their desks).

I explained that we were going to play Red Light, Green Light.  But with a twist.  We were doing it in the hallway.  Yep, the hallway!  A place where you are not allowed to talk and you are only allowed to walk.  Their eyes grew big.  Would they be able to play Red Light, Green Light and have the self control to stay in the game by following our hallway rules?

Each class performed differently, but overall it was a success and we didn't make too much racket.  When we came back into their classroom we celebrated by watching Cookie Monster's video about self control and had a mini dance party, with our marshmallows of course.

When the time was up their eyes were anxiously looking up at me.  Would I fulfill my end of the deal?  Were they able to exhibit self control?  The results were in as I walked around passing out a second marshmallow.  All but 2 students were able to wait.  One surprised me, one did not.  Not too bad roadrunners...I'll get you next time.

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