I walked into a session yesterday with a relatively new student. I had a lesson plan based on improving listening skills for development of receptive and pragmatic language skills. My intern was by my side ready to put our plan into action. Within two minutes of entering the room, someone came in with a letter for the student. It was from a friend of his at his former school location from which he had graduated the year prior. He reads the letter out loud and it follows a somewhat predictable format, with the exception of his friend’s final question “one last thing, can a shrunken head bite?” I love my students’ sense of humor more than anything in the world. I exit the room to provide a quick consult to the writing teacher: I suggest she use this letter arrival as impetus to initiate an ongoing exchange between the two students with direct instruction along the way. She puts the plan into action the following day. Teachable moment for writing consult and collaboration.
The letter engendered a conversation about both engaging in an ongoing communication exchange with his friend and using a future session to take a visit across town to his old classroom. I probe him to express the possible problems we might run into and how we can solve those problems. Teachable moment for problem solving and communication. I advise him that he will also have to write his teacher an email to request permission to visit. I informed him that I am using my Google calendar to document our plan because I don’t even remember what I had for dinner the night before. A teachable moment for use of external organizational tools.
I prompt him to ask me a question about what I had for dinner the night before. Teachable moment for asking questions. He’s great at it. He then prompts me to ask him the same question. I do. He changes his request to prompt me to ask him about his lunch today. His response: “a rosemary and olive oil bagel with bacon cream cheese, a piece of BBQ chicken pizza, and a soda from Mimmo’s”. I commented on how good his bagel sounded, particularly the bacon cream cheese part. Then it hits me, our intended lesson included a story about a new employee at a restaurant who was taking verbal orders on a procedure, the Big Jake Bacon Cheese Burger. It’s the perfect segue! I live for these moments! It’s a seamless redirect back to the objective with a whole bunch of incidental learning along the way! A beautiful lesson for the student, the intern, the writing teacher, and me!
My next challenge, to teach the intern, the paraprofessionals, and the new teachers how to grab every single teachable moment and squeeze out the incidental learning!