Monday, October 5, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #32: Never Miss a Teachable Moment

This week's entry comes from Jenny, a new second grade teacher. You can read her teaching and other random thoughts at her blog.

Never miss a teachable moment.

Too often we stress and labor over the all-important Lesson Plans. We insist that they go exactly as followed. You have a schedule; to stick to it, you need to stick to the Plan. I understand that, but especially in the elementary classroom, I think teachers have to be willing to stray from the schedule.

As an example, I was teaching second graders a story that took place in China. They'd done a "virtual visit" to China a couple of months ago, so I asked what they remembered about China. One student found China on the globe, but then asked how people don't "fall off" of the world in the Southern hemisphere. I could have dismissed the question. I was trying to introduce a story, for crying out loud!

Luckily for me, I looked around the room first. I had the students' rapt attention. All of them were looking at me, silent and curious. Think for a moment- how often does that happen in your classroom?

I decided that it was impromptu science time. I told the students about the power of gravity, and then someone shouted out a comment. "Right, like on the moon there's no gravity so you float!"

Suddenly my literature lesson has been sidetracked, but I can't help it. I am too much of a science nut to let that misconception fly. I politely corrected the student, explaining that there is no gravity in space, but on the moon there is actually some gravity. I rush to the computer, and find a video of the moon landing to show them. The students watch, and I point out that Neil Armstrong did keep falling back on the surface of the moon. There is gravity, even though it's not as strong as on Earth.

The students are nodding, and I can see this light in their eyes. For once, they're all listening. This is something cool, and something interesting at this very moment, and something they want to learn. And to think- all it took was 5 minutes of improvisational teaching to get there.

I'm a new teacher, but this is why I'm a teacher. I want to encourage curiosity about the world and a passion for learning something new. If you hear an off-the-wall question or comment, take advantage of the opportunity. You just might catch a second grader poring over a space book the next day!

Read more about this project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 33 is scheduled for next Monday, October 12th.

As promised, the PDF version of Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition is available for free all day today! Thank you to Jenny for making this possible! The book is available here.