What is the best way to teach our students? Is it through hour long lectures, strict note taking and forcing them to sit and listen to us ramble on about a topic they really don’t care about? Or is through creative activities, pursuing the student’s interests and discovering new things as a group?
Hopefully you can see that the latter is a far superior option. But how do we create these situations where learning thrives? To accomplish this, we must be willing to take a trip to the margins.
What does it mean to teach in the margins?
Margins are the outskirts. They are where the ordinary is replaced by the extraordinary and everyday tasks fall way to memorable experiences. Teaching in the margins is focused on student-centered, unique lessons that allow students to truly learn.
What is found in the margins?
- Experiences that lead to memorable knowledge
- New perspectives on learning
- Student Curiosity
- Visible interest and passion
- Expansion of basic topics
- Experimentation and discovery
What is not found in the margins?
- “I talk, you listen” class structure
- Required note taking
- Pure memorization to the fault of true learning
- Silent classes
- No discussion
- Experiments with a known result
How do we get to the margins?
- Have instructional conversation to understand how your students learn best
- Understand you student’s interests and passions
- Be willing to take risks
- Plan times where you allow your students to learn in new ways
- Use as many opportunities as possible to stray from classic teaching methods
- Allow your students to direct the flow of the classroom
Getting to the margins can be done by students, teachers or the whole class working together. But no matter who is leading the path, there must be a clear plan to ensure the success of your trip into the margins.
Teachable Moments vs Teaching in the Margins
Teachable moments are an everyday occurrence for most teachers. Students ask questions, make a mistake or something happens in the classroom that can lead to an interesting discussion. But unlike teaching in the margins, teachable moments are just that. Moments.
In the Margins in My Classroom
My goal is to be the most exemplary science teacher that I can possibly be. I know to accomplish this, I must often take risks, engage my students and most importantly, travel into the margins.
Here are a few ideas I have to lead my own students into the margins
- Bring animals into the classroom
- Bring science into our own backyards
- Student directed science fairs for elementary classes
- Exploration centers throughout the room
- Student designed experiments
- Interactive demonstrations
- Group community service projects