In the Margins: An Every Day Goal

Where are the Margins?

Where are the margins in your classroom? Is it in the question your student just asked? Or is it the snake sneaking out of his enclosure to eat the nearby goldfish? Or is it in the stream outside of the high school?

In reality, the margins can be found in all of these things! According to Ann E. Haley-Oliphant in Exploration, Risk-Taking, and Wonderment: Traveling to the Margins of Instruction, in the margins, it’s much more about experiencing science than it is about lecturing science. She goes on to say that we cannot have the margins if we don’t have the center. What is the center, you ask? Let’s Explore!

The Margins vs. The Center

The Center

  • teacher lecturing
  • cut-&-dry lessons
  • teacher gives students things to memorize
  • Read the textbook. Remember the textbook

The Margins

  • teacher and students discuss topics
  • Often spontaneous
  • Can happen anywhere
  • full of rich and diverse thoughts

In the center, the teacher’s goal is to “fill” their students with definitions and topics to memorize. In the margins, the teacher’s goal is to encourage and discuss concepts and thoughts for learning.

The Margins vs. Teachable Moments

While the margins and teachable moments both happen unplanned, they are different.

  • The margins are diverse in ideas and thoughts
  • The margins are often led by the students
  • The margins is an area of uncertain learning
  • Teachable moments are teacher-led
  • Teachable moments ultimately lead back to a concept in the lesson plan or textbook

How-to: Venture into the Margins

Below is a short list of tips and tricks you can use to venture into the margins during your classes. Some of the most opportune times come when we are least expecting it, so be spontaneous and travel outside the center.

When a student asks a question you don’t know the answer to

Take the opportunity to learn with your students and explore the answer together instead of just saying “I don’t know” and moving on

When a student asks a question but you’re just trying to get through the lesson

STOP! If a student asks you a question, they’re giving you a chance to teach something that they are interested in or curious about. Use that to dictate what you discuss to get your students involved.

Bring in an animal

Animals are unpredictable and often a mode of emotional support for students. Teach a lesson on cell division if the class animal scrapes its leg, or reproduction if one is pregnant! Students will care about the animal and what it is doing

Use current events

Ask your students what they think about things happening around them related to science

To close out this blog I encourage you all to really listen and comprehend what Ramsey is saying. As a teacher, instead of being guided by lesson plans and textbooks, he is guided by  his own student’s questions and curiosities. As educators, we should follow in his footsteps so we have more opportunity to teach in the margins.

1 Comment

  1. Claire,
    First of all, this is an amazing post. It immediately gets the reader thinking by starting it out with the three questions that you did. You’re “How to venture into the margins,” section is my absolute favorite part about this blog, because you give so many realistic ideas for teachers implement into their classrooms. I especially like how you address the topic of a student asking a question that the teacher does not know the answer to. This happens so often, and teachers should know how to handle these situations! Would you like it if you asked someone a question and they left it at “I don’t know,”? Probably not. I like how you worded it, “take the opportunity to learn with your students.” Is that not the goal anyway? Teacher should always be learning as they teach!
    If I were to give you a suggestion, it would be to maybe find a video or picture of a teacher/classroom going into the margins to give your readers a visual of what you’re talking about here.
    Great post!!

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