Oreos and Pseudoteaching

I’ve been following the discussion of Pseudoteaching at Frank Noschese’s blog Action Reaction, which made me evaluate my own teaching in order to consider when does my teaching really look great and all my kids are engaged but results do not reflect that student learning has actually happened.

A couple of years ago, I decided to try a new way to teach the phases of the moon. The activity I chose to do was recommended by a colleague, and it involved using the filling of Oreo cookies to model the phases of the moon. Kids love Oreos, and I have always found that incorporating food into lessons helps to create connections and understanding. This web site explain the basic idea of Oreo Moon Phases. Students use eight Oreo cookies, remove the top chocolate cookie leaving the creme filling behind, and then shape the moon phases using the creme filling.

When I did this lesson, the kids were definitely engaged in creating the Oreo moon phases. They loved creating them, they loved eating the top part of the Oreo. Everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing. It looked great.


I found out pretty quickly that students had no idea of what actually caused moon phases. Since they didn’t know what caused them, the shapes and names did not mean anything to them. The alignment of the sun, Earth, and moon was lost to them. It looked great. They were engaged. They learned nothing. It must have been pseudoteaching.

The only positive thing is that I am very critical of what I do in the classroom. I like to change things up, try new things, and am not stuck using the same activities year after year. When something flops, I look at why, and I do things differently the next time. I am big fan of  self reflection, so hopefully that means I am only pseudoteaching through a lesson one time!

By Janelle

Space geek, science nerd extraordinaire. That's me! Want to know more, visit the About page.


  1. That is a really nice connection and reflection. I often find the same in my classroom, but only having 18 hours at best with my students it makes it rather hard to get everything across. I am going to check out that discussion and see where I can make some changes. The STEM education classes I have been taking as part of the NASA Endeavor Fellowship have really opened my eyes in this way. Can’t wait to hear more about the awesome happenings in your classroom!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Geoff!

      I think just spending time reflecting about lessons helps me to see if I’m really teaching or pseudoteaching. Thanks for mentioning the NASA Endeavor Fellowship; I wasn’t aware of this program. I’m going to have to look into now.

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