Kids come to school with ideas already formed. About winning and losing. About being the best at something. About being stronger. Smarter.
As a first grade teacher, I liked to shake things up a bit with my students. Challenge their little worlds.
Get them to think differently.
A trend in education that started in the 1990s and is still going strong is something called ‘cooperative learning.‘
The approach is simple: kids working together to achieve a common goal. It’s been proven that it leads to greater student achievement, an improvement in social skills and—perhaps most important of all—it prepares kids to work successfully in teams when they join the grown-up world of work.
The M&M game
Each year, as a kick-off to cooperative learning in our first grade classroom, to get kids thinking about what it means to work and learn together, I invited them to play the M&M game. (With candy as the prize, I didn’t have to talk them into this.)
My only prop for this lesson was a jumbo-sized bag of M&Ms.
First I placed my students in pairs, facing each other over a table.
“Each of you will put one of your elbows up on the table and clasp the other person’s hand,” I said. “I will time you for one minute. Every time the other person’s whole arm goes down flat on the table, you get an M&M.”
When I was sure they understood what their goal was, I started the clock.
The first time I did this, I was blown away by the results. Of 12 pairs of students, most kids didn’t get a single M&M. A couple of kids got one measly piece of candy each.
In the problem solving session afterward, each pair reported on their results. It was obvious that they had viewed the game as an arm wrestling match, which I hadn’t described it as at all.
Then I said, “How do you think you might have gotten more M&Ms?”
Most said some version of “Try harder” or “Use my muscles more.” With more thinking, sometimes (but not always) someone would come up with, “Well, we could share. I get to push his arm down and he gets to push mine down and we just keep doing that.”
And when that happened, I saw the light bulbs in their little heads turn on.
They could get 50 or more M&Ms each if they worked together!
We talked about how hard it was trying to beat the other person and how much easier it would be to help each other get what they wanted.
Why successful bloggers always win the M&M game
Once, after I left teaching and started my own business, I heard a quote from Zig Ziglar, author, speaker and salesman extraordinaire:
“You can have anything in life you want if you just help other people get what they want.”
I was struck by how similar in thinking this was to that lesson back in my first grade classroom.
But how many times do we see blogging as a lonely pursuit?
Something that, in order to succeed, we have to be better than someone else? We are like those first graders, competing for the M&Ms.
What would happen if instead we started working together?
There are enough M&Ms to go around. If we cooperate with others, share our resources and strengths, how might we get where we want to go faster?
And what would that look like if we supported other bloggers, even those who might not quite be where we are yet? Could we all get more readers and subscribers if we banded together? Recognized the good stuff other bloggers are doing? Invited them to write a guest post for us?
What about you?
Have you found a compete mentality in the world of blogging?
Or have you met people who are willing to work with you so you all get more M&Ms?
What is your thinking on this?