We recently switched out daughter’s car seat to facing the front. She was excited. It opened up a whole new world for her. So much so that she was super chatty all day long whenever we were in the car. On a 20-minute drive home after dinner, she started asking me about road signs. After I explained what they were, she asked me about every single road sign that we passed on the way home. Every time one came up, she would point and say, “What’s that one mean?”
The drive went from her asking what the sign were to me asking her what some of the recurring signs meant. It turned into a little teaching session, but it was driven by my daughter’s curiosity.
Some of my best lessons in the classroom were not planned. They just happened. A question from a student. A problem that I didn’t foresee. An obstacle that they are stuck on. All of these issues have created some of the best learning opportunities in my class because they tap into the natural curiosities of my students.
The problem is that we often let the curriculum get in the way of these opportunities. We get some laser-focused on getting through the material that we shut down anything that may get us off task. When we do this, we stifle students’ curiosity. Subconsciously, we teach them that their inquiries don’t matter, which can shut down their desire to learn in general.
Obviously this can be taken to the extreme, and that’s not the point that I’m trying to make. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t plan anything and just let things happen in class. Plan. Use the curriculum to schedule out your days. Just be flexible enough to go with the flow when an opportunity pops up. I don’t have spontaneous lessons every day in class. In fact, I could go weeks and months without an opportunity. I do try to keep my eyes open and stay aware of any opportunities that may arise.
Let your students be curious. Let them explore. Let them take control of their learning. Give it a shot. And then get back to your lesson.