“The Teachable Moment”

This is an excerpt from our new book, Create AHA! Moments, Tips for Teachers. For more information, check out the book’s website here.

Observing students during guided practice can reveal a quizzical expression, a sigh, a squeezing of the eyes, a head in hand, an arm extended, glancing at others’ work, a shoulder shrug, staring off into the abyss, a fist or a palm up.  All of these cues have something in common.  These cues signal a teachable moment when a student is ready to learn.  Stated more plainly, these cues signal teachable moments.

In a teachable moment, a student is ready to understand exactly what you want them to learn based on the instruction you have provided.  The student lets you know in some way, either verbally or non-verbally, that she needs some help to understand the correct reasoning or skill.  At this point, your student knows that she is lost although she attempted to apply the steps and now, she needs directions to reach the learning goal.  It is up to you to diagnose “where” the student is, where she needs to go, and how to show her the way.

As her teacher, you know the path.  You’ve seen students ascend the ladder of reasoning and you know where the “trouble spots” (i.e., frequently made errors) are located.  Provide an explanation of the correct reasoning in language she understands, then help her see the gap between incorrect and correct reasoning, and have her demonstrate that she understands the correct path.  Once she has the breadcrumbs to follow, she will be eager to try and experience success.  Provide opportunities for her to practice this again until she consistently demonstrates correct reasoning.  Later, as her confidence and mastery grows, she will be able to show you the way she “solves” the problem. 

For more ideas on how you can create teachable moments with your students, check out “Create Aha! Moments:  Tips for Teachers” on Amazon .com. 

About the Author

Michelle’s education includes a Certificate in Industrial Organizational Psychology and an M.S. in Human Resources.  During her years as the Service Quality & Training Director of Greenleaf Hospitality Group, she planned curriculum and delivered face-to-face instruction for entry-level personnel, supervisors and managers.  As an education consultant, she has facilitated focus groups, strategic planning sessions, professional development workshops, and executive coaching for school superintendents and principals.  She has also contributed to the development of assessments to hire teachers and principals.  In her leisure time, she has accumulated significant instructional experience from her decades as a coach.  Recently, Michelle co-authored a book for educators called Create Aha! Moments:  Tips for Teachers.  This beautifully written book shares how to help students learn more and remember longer. 

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