This response seems so amazing to me that I was determined to do it again this year.
But first of all, yesterday, we watched the famous Asch conformity experiment:
We talked about what might motivate people to just say what everyone else is saying rather than what they could plainly see. Most people thought they wouldn't do the same thing in that situation.
We talked more, and discussed how sometimes you really need to just go along with what other people are saying, even if you don't want to. Like when you want to play a game together at break time. You don't always get to play the game the others want to. But you want to play together.
We didn't really get to a conclusion, and I didn't add too much to what the class said. I would prefer the students had the chance to ponder this themselves and think their own thoughts about it.
So today I asked about the age of the teacher. I said, think about the question; if you want to, write something down. And... almost everyone wrote "30"!
Here they are:
While the children had been answering on their whiteboards I'd overheard J saying, "But it's not true", before he wrote down 30, so I asked him now what he'd meant by that. He said he hadn't thought the question made sense. "Why did you write 30 then?" I asked. "Because I saw everyone else doing it and thought I should write something." Quite a few people sat up at this. There was some laughter of recognition. M said immediately, "It's just like that experiment with the lines."
I asked if others had thought like J who had thought that the question didn't give them enough information to have an answer. About six put their hand up. One said they didn't want to leave their whiteboard empty, and subtraction and division gave numbers that were small, and multiplication gave an answer that was too big.
As before, I told them that most people answer like this when they're given this kind of question, even older children. As a debrief, I showed them Robert Kaplinksy's video, How Old is the Shepherd?
What do you think? Is there a place for this kind of mini-lesson?