How to Create Teachable Moments in the Classroom

Teacher and student
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A teachable moment is an unplanned opportunity that arises in the classroom where a teacher has a chance to offer insight to his or her students. A teachable moment is not something that you can plan for; rather, it is a fleeting opportunity that must be sensed and seized by the teacher. Often it will require a brief digression that temporarily sidetracks the original lesson plan so that the teacher can explain a concept that has captured the students' attention.

Taking the time to explore this tangent is almost always worthwhile. A teachable moment could ultimately evolve into a full-blown lesson plan or unit of instruction.

Examples of Teachable Moments

Teachable moments can happen anytime, and they often pop up when they are least expected. Once, during a morning meeting, a student asked his teacher why they had had the day before off from the school. The day before was Veteran's Day. The teacher used the student's question as an opportunity to talk about the sacrifices that men and women in the armed services have made on behalf of their country. The students were fascinated hearing the teacher explain the significance of Veteran's Day. Together, they spent 20 minutes discussing their friends and neighbors in the armed services and what their contributions meant for the country's future.

Another example of a teachable moment took place when a student asked her teacher why she had to do homework every day. Children are curious by nature, and many of the other students were probably wondering the same thing, even if they didn't have the nerve to ask. The teacher turned the student's question into a teachable moment. First, she asked the students themselves why they thought they had to do homework. Some students said it was just because the teacher said so, while others said that it was a way to help them learn. The teacher and the students spent about 20 minutes discussing why homework was important for their learning and how it helps them practice concepts that they are studying in class.

How to Create a Teachable Moment

Teachable moments come up all the time. As a teacher, you have to pay close attention and be ready for them. Like the teachers in the examples above, you have to be willing to engage with student questions and have open and honest dialogues. Taking the time to explain the "why" behind the answer to a student's question is often one of the best ways to create a teachable moment.

You can also create teachable moments by asking students to talk about the book they are reading or about the lesson they are learning. You can have students listen to music and talk about the lyrics or look at photographs and talk about what they notice in the pictures.

If you ever come to the point where a student asks you a question and you do not know the answer, all you have to do is say "Let's look up at the answer together." Learning alongside your students is a great way to build trust and create more opportunities for teachable moments.