Creativity Lesson: Shrinking Jenga

*This lesson coincides with chapter 9 (To Err is Wrong) from Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech.

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Lesson created by Lauren Cimino

Grade level range: 4-12 

Length of time to teach lesson: 8 Minutes


Overview of lesson:  This game is meant to be progressively challenging and have students learn to fail and adjust to their failures, to strive to be successful. This game will show students that they may be successful in the beginning and their confidence may grow, however, over time as the Jenga sets become smaller, they need to adapt to their struggles and failures in order to learn. Students will be challenged as the sets decrease in size and will have to create new strategies in order to successfully remove pieces.


Objectives (Learning targets) of this lesson:  Students will be challenged to adapt to decreasing sizes of rods and removing them.  Students will use critical thinking and problem solving skills in order to progress through the various size blocks.


Resources/supplies/handouts needed to teach this lesson:  Jenga sets of various size blocks or Cuisenaire rods of various sizes, rubric.

15 yellow Cuisenaire rods
12 purple Cuisenaire rods
9 green Cuisenaire rods
6 red Cuisenaire rods

Teaching instructions for the lesson:

1)  Layer five yellow Cuisenaire rods perpendicularly on top of another five yellow Cuisenaire rods until you reach desired height. (For example I have three layers and have used 15 rods)
Explain verbal directions. (You may adapt as you see fit for each age level)
You may only use two fingers at one time.
You may only touch the intended block you plan to remove.
You may only remove one block at a time.
If the tower of blocks collapses, reset the tower.
Think of what actions you can take to be successful on the next round.
You must be successful with the largest set first, before decreasing to the next smallest size.
2)  Have students try to remove a center rod from the middle section.
3)  As students are successful, decrease the Cuisenaire rods in size. (Start with 5X5 yellow, 4X4 purple, 3X3 green, and 2X2 red)
As the rods decrease in size, it will be more challenging to remove each one.  If a student begins to struggle have them stop and think of ways they could successfully remove a center rod.

Special Notes from the creator of this lesson:  Students may become aggressive or overly competitive during this activity. If you are working in pairs, perhaps have one student coach while the other student physically tries to remove the blocks.

You may only use two fingers at any one time.
You may not use any type of “tool”.
You may only touch the intended block you plan to remove.
You may only remove one block at a time.
If the tower of blocks collapses, reset the tower and try again.
You must be successful with the largest set first, before decreasing to the next smallest size.

Assessment:  The rubric is intended to be used after the conclusion of the lesson. Students should self-reflect and rate themselves and then youwill go through and grade them as well to see if the scores align.

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