What is Teaching in the “Margins?”

Think back to your days in school; was there ever something going on outside of class that your teacher thought was important to learn about? Did this topic tie into class but also spark interest in you and your peers? If so, they were most likely teaching in the margins.

So, what are the “margins?”

Think about a piece of notebook paper. The middle, with the lines, is structured and usually holds up to whatever standards are needed for taking notes, writing an essay, etc. Think about this like where standards are and planned lesson plans that a teacher has had for years. And now think about the margins. That’s typically where people would doodle or make little notes to themselves. This is where creativity occurs. This is what it’s like teaching in the margins.

Teaching in the margins is taking a lesson even farther to spark the student’s interest. It breaks routine and makes class, even for teacher’s, more engaging and exploratory. It’s learning outside of the box that is student led with the assistance of the teacher when it comes to preparation. It is creative, innovating and something that the students could really enjoy!

In this article, a Kentucky teacher talks about what it is like to be teaching in the margins:

Teaching in the margins

Teachable Moments vs Margins

Margins and teachable moments are usually confused with each other because they both tend to add to higher learning but they are actually very different and here is how:

Teachable moments:

  • Short term
  • Sparked by a question inside of class
    • Not planned
  • Relates to the class entirely
  • Typically, inside the box


  • Long term
  • Sparked by life outside of class (life imitates art)
    • Planned lesson, even if it was an hour ago
  • Pushes the curriculum to its boundaries
  • Typically, very outside the box

There are many ways as to how to take your class to the margins and these are some ideas and activities you could do:

  • See a large event happen on the news that relates to what you are teaching? Have the students explore this through making their own experiments or research presentations.
  • Have a day once a week, for maybe 20 minutes or so, where the students get to choose how to open class to allow them to explore what they enjoy.
    • Have them create their own lessons for the class!
  • Allow inquiry based learning, especially if the students find what they are studying interesting (even if it’s stretching the curriculum a bit). This is good!
  • Adopt a class pet! Animals are spontaneous but it could also add to learning in the classroom through observation.

In a science classroom, the margins should always be explored, even if it’s chaotic!


  1. Hello Kasey!
    I love your analogy of the piece of paper. I can see where you are coming from. The middle of the paper is where there is standardization and where just writing takes place and the margins is where creativity happens! That was a great analogy! I also like your quote from Ratatoulli. That was very creative to put in there and it is a very true quote. In teaching, it is best to expect unpredictability especially when you are teaching in the margins. Teaching in the Margins is more student led and the teacher as a guide, rather than teacher-led. I think that is very important. I like your lesson plan ideas. I especially like the current event ones and the one about taking 20 minutes at the start of class to do or explore what the students want to do. I know that teenagers like to have choices, and what better is it to give them choices about something important: their learning? I like how you separated the blog into sections. This made it easier to read. I also like how how you compare teachable moments with teaching in the margins. You hit some points that I almost forgot to hit. The only thing I would suggest is putting another video or website into the blog. That is all. Your ideas rock!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Delaina,
      Thank you so much! Your feedback really helps me out for future posts. I thought that the piece of paper analogy was the easiest to comprehend so I added it to my post. I wanted to make my point that it is student led because students are more likely to be engaged if they take control of what they are learning. Also, thank you for your suggestion of adding a video, I will definitely take that into consideration next time!


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