Have you ever had a student interrupt your lesson with a question they just had to have answered or an idea they were itching to express? Their face is priceless. Their eyes are open wide, staring right at you, begging for an answer. You've never had so much eye contact from a student. Sometimes these kinds of questions are on topic with what you are currently teaching, and other times not so much. It's so easy to just say, "Hey, great question. Why don't you look that up when you get home?" But wait, this is a teachable moment. Actually, these moments are so much more than that. We should be thrilled with this display of curiosity and take advantage of these moments as often as we can. My students and I had a moment like this and we are still feeling the effects of it.
Recently, my first graders learned about light and shadow in Science. After we went outside on a sunny day to make shadows with our bodies by blocking the sunlight, one of my precious students asked a series of questions about Mars. He asked how far Mars was from the sun, if there were shadows on Mars, and where you can see the planet in the night sky. After I picked my mouth up from the ground I walked my students back to the classroom, turned on the Promethean board projector, and had my student lead a Google search. We answered his questions and my student even continued to share how he used his telescope at home.
At first I saw this as a huge interruption, but I was wrong. This somewhat off-topic, impromptu lesson had a major impact. By letting my student take the reigns he developed a new confidence and inspired his classmates to take control of their learning as well. This single moment also inspired some of our recent Genius Hour projects. It helped my students feel comfortable enough to seek deeper meaning into the subject matter by asking probing questions.
It sounds like such a small thing, but students gain so much when you take the time to look up a picture, check out a video, or do a Google search together to answer their unpredictable questions. Student learning should not be constricted to a single box consisting of grade level content, standards, or a timeframe. Learning should not be so limited and predictable. Let your students take the reigns and you will be amazed where it will lead.