To the left is a blank piece of paper awaiting for a student to take notes on. The paper is made up of the center and the margins. The center is where the student writes their lecture notes and the margin is where they write things that help them understand the material. Now think of the paper being your classroom. The main concepts are in the center of the paper, but where the students really get to understanding the material is within the margins.
My Experience with the Margins:
Throughout my educational journey I have been taught a lot, but the material that I have truly remembered was taught within the margins. In high school, my physics teacher would teach us the formulas and have us do problems about motion and force. What I really remembered about this class is when we did the Physics Olympics! The class was split into teams and we would compete against each other in the events. The events included a ping pong ball launch, balsa wood bridges, mobile mania, egg drops, mousetrap race-car, and the musical physics event. This semester long activity made my classmates and I really enjoy physics and the best part is we were also learning.
Teaching in the margins is very important in a classroom, especially a science classroom. The following are reasons why:
- Teaching in the margins helps students understand the core material better.
- The margins help give the students the opportunity to explore and use their creative side.
- They give the students the opportunity to ask question.
- The margins make the students curious about what they are learning.
- The margins give the teacher the opportunity to see their students in action. This can give them feedback on how their students are doing.
- They give everyone the opportunity to think outside the box.
- It gives students the opportunity to relate it to their lives.
- Teaching in the margins takes the focus away from the test and move the focus to learning.
Examples of teaching in the margins:
- The Physics Olympics
- Dissections (Sheep brain, sheep eye, bypass on a pig)
- Making different colored fireworks with different chemicals
- Color spectrum using acids and bases
- Building a hovercraft
- Making rock candy
- Getting an egg into a bottle
Is the Center Important?
Yes! The center is also an important part of learning. The center and the margins go hand and hand. In the center is where you get the main content. In the classroom this looks like worksheets and lectures. It is important to find a balance between the two.
Margins vs Teachable Moment:
— Teaching Strategies (@TeachStrategies) August 23, 2017
There is a difference between the margins and a teachable moment. A teachable moment is spontaneous and only happens for a few minutes in the classroom. A teachable moment cannot be repeated. It normally stems from students asking questions. Where the margin can be planned or spontaneous. The margin is more focused on the topic and the students learning. The margin helps students explore and question while also being creative.
The following are two questions a student might ask that can be turned into a teachable moment:
- “Why is the sky blue?”
- “Why are rain clouds dark?
Teaching is about finding a good balance between the center and the margins. This will ensure the students are getting many opportunities to ask their questions. It will also help students understand the content overall. Just remember to leave the center every once and awhile.