Marshmallow Architects

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SWBAT use mini marshmallows and toothpicks to create models of 3D shapes.

Big Idea

Students demonstrate their understanding of geometric attributes of shapes, by creating shape models.

Attention Grabber/Introduction

5 minutes

“Girls and boys,” I begin, “We have looked at 3D shapes, danced with 3D shapes, moved with 3D shapes… Today we are going to build 3D shapes!”

I display on “the big screen” a few 3D shapes, a handful of toothpicks, and a small pile of marshmallows.

I do not show much—on purpose—but I demonstrate how the marshmallows are like connectors and the toothpicks can be pushed in the marshmallows to make sides.

“Do you want to make some 3D shapes?” I ask.

Students almost cheer, “Yes!!!”

Independent Practice

20 minutes

It is fascinating watching the students manage their materials and get started on their 3D creations. Some of our more methodical learners noticed that I poked a toothpick into a marshmallow, so they create a sort of stockpile of toothpicks poked into marshmallows.

Another fast learner zips through building a cube at lightning fast speed, so I get him talking about the features of his 3D shape and his construction plan (MP.3). I challenge him to build another 3D shape. He considers it, and I give him time. (I certainly don’t want to punish productivity by making learners who finished fast do extra work, but I know this student likes a challenge, so I present a challenge and let him determine what he will do next.)

A couple fast finishers want to be helpers—but kindergarten “help” is a complicated issue. Many young learners perceive helping others as doing the work that the other student can’t do…a sort of do it for the other student. My helper rule is to have hands in pockets when helping—so that the work is still being done by the student who is being helped. I tell the helper that they must “talk ‘em through it”—tell the other student what to do, but helpers cannot do work for other students. This is complicated, and each time a pair of students agree to have one student help another I know I need to be in close proximity to keep an eye on the “help” that’s happening.

Other students are really attempting to build elaborate 3D objects—some like odd rectangular prisms, others more basic in terms of pyramids or cubes. It is funny to me as I walk around that even as I get successful builders talking about their cubes or pyramids (MP.4), oftentimes the confused but very ambitious marshmallow architects are so focused on their intricate building that they don’t notice their successful friends all around them. Fascinating!


10 minutes

Students share their completed creations—mostly cubes and pyramids (MP.4). A few friends share their elaborate constructions that may not have been 100% complete, but we acknowledge great effort and big plans.

I ask about spheres and cylinders…Why didn’t we make any models of those 3D shapes? Some students giggle, but we actually have a short but fun chat about how our materials were straight, not round. We try to imagine what we might need to make spheres. One creative friend suggests cooked spaghetti noodles, and we contemplate the possibilities of constructing with cooked spaghetti (MP.3).

Everyone is celebrated… and then the question everyone has been waiting to ask is asked: Can we eat the marshmallows?!?

“Yes!” I declare.

Funny… some kiddos would rather take their objects to their cubbies so they can take the constructions home.