The “Petals Around the Rose” activity was an exciting experience that caused a higher brain activity and several different emotions. It helped me enormously not only in the area of my own personal problem solving, but also in the area of teaching, leading me to take many more things into account, such as the learning environment, physical movements, necessary explanations and adjusting the learning environment to every single student individually.
At the beginning of the activity, I was very enthusiastic because I have a great interest in solving puzzles. While Dr. Patty threw the dice on the floor and said, for example there are no petals around the rose, I tried to solve the puzzle by using different strategies, but none of them availed me to get the right answer. During that time, some of my classmates started getting the answer and consequently, I started feeling a little frustrated, but I did not give up because I really enjoy a good challenge. Therefore, I was determined to solve the puzzle, even though I was a bit anxious for being behind my classmates. I tried to figure out how my classmates got the answer by listening to the numbers and seeing the hand movement of Dr. Patty. For instance, I thought that they might be counting how many dots were on the dices that were in front of the center dice. I tried to apply it two times. It worked, because I got the same number that one of my classmates successfully got. I felt happy that I finally got the right answer. However, when I applied this strategy again during the next turn, I got the wrong answer. Therefore, I realized that the strategy I used was unsuccessful.
After that, Dr. Patty divided us into different, small groups and each group had a leader who got the right answer for this puzzle. During this small group exercise, the leader asked us some questions regarding this puzzle. One of the questions was what we knew about the petals and the rose. When the leader asked this question, she moved her hand and made a circle with a center. According to Vygotsky, what is “required of the learner are developing deep connections among ideas and organizing the world according to logical relations (conceptual thinking and logical memory).” Thus, I focused on this hand movement, and tried to make a connection between the question that was asked and the hand movement. I altered my strategy, so that I might be able to find the solution. I attempted to count all the dots on the dices that were around the center dice. This time, one of the members of my group got the right answer. I felt somewhat anxious again.
Meanwhile, I tried to motivate myself, by saying “I will not give up, I will keep trying.” This “egocentric speech” helped me continue my attempts to reach the solution because, as Vygotsky believes, this idea “goes underground to help with self-control, conscience, learning, etc.” Also, I was convinced that if there were students who could figure out the answer, I should be able to figure it out as well. With a lot of attempts, my classmate who got the answer asked the leader to put one dice on the floor, to help us get the answer, so I anticipated that my classmate wanted us to count all the dots on the dice, but it did not work. Nevertheless, I felt I was close to the answer. Eventually, I realized that my classmate wanted us to count the dots in the corners, in case there was a central dot. To be more precise, when the side of the dice has two, four or six dots, there are no petals. Also, when the side of the dice has one central, there are no petals, as well. On the other hand, when the side of the dice has three or five dots, then there are petals.
Thus, finally I managed to solve the puzzle successfully, although it took me some time to find out the clue to the puzzle. However, there were several different elements that hindered me from finding out its solution. The first element was Dr. Patty’s language. She did not clarify her words, as she was just asking one question: “How many petals are around the rose?” and nothing more. She did not give us enough explanation about the activity to understand what the focus was, in order for us to find the answer. Additionally, I did not know what the word petals meant, so I used different strategies randomly, until Dr. Patty moved her hand and made a circle, associating that with her question.
In addition, my lack of background regarding the “Petals Around the Rose” activity was another element that hindered me. I did not know how to unravel this puzzle. As a result, I did not have prior knowledge which could have helped me get the right answer easily. This is connected to Piaget’s idea, who claims that our learning process can be hindered “without a sense of ‘imbalance’ between what we ‘know’ and what occurs in our daily experience.” Furthermore, he continues that “the teacher must provide examples and probing questions that lead students to rethink their hastily developed ideas.” Unfortunately, during the large group exercise, Dr. Patty did not provide us with enough instructions. She just started shaking the dice and throwing them on the floor, asking “How many petals are around the rose?” Also, she did not give us any suggestions or steps in order to help us understand what we should do to solve this puzzle. Hence, it was tricky for me to figure out how to solve this puzzle. In addition, I thought the puzzle was a math activity, and this thought directed my thinking, making me perceive it as a math problem, which in turn, prevented me from thinking of any other, non-mathematical possibilities as the puzzle’s solution. This was because most of our class activities were actually related to math. I must have been seeking “equilibration,” which Piaget defines as “the ongoing sense of incorporating new information from the environment into existing ways of thinking/understanding (schemas).”
On the other hand, there were some factors that did help me solve the puzzle. One of these was being part of a small group, which was extremely supportive, because during that time, we shared different ideas and some of these assisted me to rethink how to solve this puzzle. I agree with Vygotsky’s point of view, that “social interaction constructs and reconstructs contexts, knowledge, and meanings.” Moreover, Dr. Patty’s body language was another helpful factor, especially considering that I did not know what petals meant. Indeed, as Vygotsky believes, a sign “has many functions but most important is to free thought and attention from immediate situation and stimuli.”
This kind of activity possesses valuable information for a future teacher. It has truly benefitted me in diverse ways. It has given me an idea how a teacher assists students and their learning by implementation of beneficial strategies. Also, I gained more knowledge in the area of student comprehension and how they learn the same things in different amounts of time. This is due to the fact that each student has a different ability and dissimilar entry points for learning. Additionally, I have become more aware of the need to meet the students’ audio as well as visual needs. This means that I must associate my verbal language with body gesticulation in order to aid student comprehension. Therefore, I will take into consideration these differences while I am teaching, and designing educational aids and activities, simply because what is adequate for one student might not be such for another. Moreover, I will attempt to organize my instructions well, in order to facilitate my students’ learning - as a “facilitator” according to constructivism theory. This is because I am in agreement with Vygotsky’s theory, that “instruction propels the mind forward.” Also, I have learned the importance of group learning that gives my students the opportunity to interact, simultaneously learning from each other.
Thus, I will try to arrange and organize the classroom environment in order for it to be appropriate for all students, by meeting all their needs and achieving a greater amount of learning at their own personal pace and learning style.