This week, at Larry Ferlazzo’s prompting, I did lessons on self-control with my upper-grade students (fourth through sixth or age 9 – 12).
Lesson One: I started off by recreating the Mischel “Marshmallow” experiment. I told students that I would give them three skittles or M & Ms, and that if they didn’t eat any of them until the end of the period, they would get three more. I then let them in the lab and commenced with passing out candy. Now, I’m not a big candy for the kids fan, but it was easier to monitor compliance in a short time over repeated periods during the day using candy. Larry did this using computer access, but this was going to be too complicated as I would have to check to see if they stayed on task on computers where I would basically have to check the browser history of each machine, which is time consuming, and then what would I give them that would let them “double down”? So that was the setup or intro. I then gave them a simple activity to do (ex. from Fourth Grade) and had them do that for about 30 minutes. At the end of that period, I had them watch a TED Talk by Joachim de Posada:
and discussed self-control and how waiting to eat the candy is part of that. I then passed out the next three pieces of candy, and pointed out that even if they were not successful, in our next lessons we would be learning about ways they could improve their self-control.
Findings: Most of the kids met the test, and earned more candy. Most who didn’t simply hadn’t listened to my instructions. Some have to some work to do on self-control, but that was no more than one or two per class. Some of the classes (six total) had everyone getting more candy.
Lesson Two: I started off by showing this slideshow, and discussing how students could grow their intelligence, and one way to help would be to increase their self-control.
I then showed this slideshow and discussed the tips with students. I pointed out how they would be used in different situations (ones where you want to resist doing something, vs. ones that are good when you have to do a difficult task that is frustrating).
I then had students comment on one tip they would try to use in the next month.
Results: I did not do this lesson with the fifth grade, and only one of the sixth grade classes got it because I will be off on Friday when I see them for the second time. Fourth grade was the only class where I saw both classes two times. They had also seen the Grass vs. Glass slideshow in the first week of the year, so I just reviewed it with them. Here is what they had for comments.
Conclusions and Followup: I will continue and get comments from all sixth graders and from the fifth graders next week. I will also continue with these lessons. When I first discussed doing the Grass vs. Glass lesson with Larry Ferlazzo, he had students who did not believe they could increase their intelligence and that some folks are just not smart. None of the fourth graders shared that thought. I have a theory that students start out with a very open sense of the possibilities, but as they experience frustration, they give up and become resigned to failure. My feeling is that the key is to build their capacity to cope and deal with frustration so that they can achieve more.