Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaching Moments

On Friday I spent some time with a few lovely 5 and 8 year olds and my dear friend and colleague, Kate Tempesta. We did a Nurturing Narratives/ creative movement class and it was a ball. Kate is always a joy to work and be with and the children were no exception. A riot-y bunch, but lovely indeed.

We had a game-plan, sort of. We were going to read a story and then do some movement with it and then make a storybook around a concept connected with it. Simple enough. Wrong. The children were in high spirits and they were squirmy and squiggly and all of things teachers punish on time-out mats. Not us! Being the forward-thinking and holistic educators that we are (ho ho) we went with it, and you know what? It went well. More movement, more laughter, more free drawing, so what? Which brings me to what I really want to talk about today: the importance of teaching moments.

Teaching moments are those moments that you cannot plan for. You cannot schedule when a concept will be illuminated and when a child will provide you with an opportunity to help them learn. The only thing you can do is remain open and calm and be on the look-out. Children teach us the way they need to be taught. If we listen and stay present with them, they will show us all we need to know.

We finally got the children settled on the couch and I launched into, How I Learned Geography. You're rolling your eyes, right? I know, I am obsessed with that book and write about it way too often on this blog, apologies. We were about halfway through when one of the children, a five-year old beauty, looks at me, point-blank, and asks: "is this a nonfiction book?"

Say what? I kind of gaped at her for a moment or two and then explained that yes, actually, this is a nonfiction book and the author had written about something that happened to him a long time ago. All at once, the lesson clicked. A teaching moment. "You know what?" I said, "today I think we are going to make nonfiction books which means we are going to be the characters in our own stories." And we were off. Completely different plan from the original, (pick a person, place and thing to put in your story), but far more worthwhile. Not only did the children show me what they needed to learn, they showed me what they wanted to learn. By recognizing and paying attention to their curiosity, we had a wonderful and fruitful afternoon.

Stay present, stay calm, stay quiet. Even in the midst of the noisy monkeys and lions and bears running around the living room, maintain a sense of peace. When you do you open yourself to really teach children. What ends up happening, of course, is that they teach you.

Read away!


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