Today we add another Hallmark of Effective Teaching and Learning to our list of (now) 12:
THE TEACHABLE MOMENT - Agile educators who nimbly take advantage of those "off the curriculum grid" spontaneous opportunities when they occur present powerful moments for effective, authentic teaching and learning. Being able to identify and use real-time teachable moments is one of those transcendent qualities that good educators possess. Below, are two excellent examples of teachable moments that became gateways to a variety of learning across a variety of curricular and civic disciplines:
Teachable Moment #1: Bubba, Richard Nixon, and the Roaches - My 4th grade class contained a menagerie of inherited classroom pets that included Iggy, our 4 foot long iguana, Hoppy, the Rabbit, and Bubba and Richard Nixon, our fish. For better or worse, there were always little roaches who inhabited the area immediately around the rabbit's cage. One day a student came to me and asked whether I thought that the fish would like roach to be on their menu. I told this young lady that if she to catch a roach, that we would see if the fish would eat it. Lauren captured the roach in a box, put it in the tank and BAM! Bubba had immediately made it a meal. Needless to say, our roach population became a great asset in our classroom and our fish became fat and happy. This literal moment in time, when the first roach went into the tank became the catalyst for our class to create a compost area on our school's front lawn. After all, if our fish liked roaches we figured they'd love worms; and they did! That compost pile was the teaching and learning gateway to a variety of grade appropriate curricular areas in science, math, social studies and language arts. And to think, all this from a little roach.
Teachable Moment #2: Andre Raphael Smith - In the mid-1990's, we took my 4th graders to the Philadelphia Orchestra's childrens concert. When the concert began, up to the podium to conduct the storied Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music stepped Andre Raphael Smith, a young African-American to conduct. At that moment in time, Mr. Smith was an Associate Conductor with the Orchestra. When my students saw the young Black man in his tuxedo and tails, they immediately were filled with wonder and began peppering me with questions as to how this could be? I had no idea about Mr. Smith's trajectory to conduct on of the world's finest symphony orchestras, so I told my students that they must ask him directly. When we returned to class, every one of my students wrote a letter to Mr. Smith asking him a variety of questions but all respectfully wondering about the seemingly incongruous picture of him conducting the orchestra. Shortly thereafter, Mr. ndre Raphael Smith visited our classroom and gave a symposium about classical music, the amazing variety of opportunities available to those who grasped them, and his roots going back many generations in North Carolina and all that implied.
By taking advantage of that teachable moment when Mr. Smith stepped up to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra, my students were able to get an incredible learning experience about the world of classical music and learn about leadership and personal responsibility. We even were able to achieve mastery of geography standards by following the Philadelphia Orchestra on their subsequent world tour.
Click here to see all 12 Hallmarks of Effective Teaching and Learning.