Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

September 13, 2012

Elections should be a teaching moment

It’s election time and teachable moments are everywhere!

If you’re a teacher, you’re always on the lookout for teachable moments, those special times when students are uniquely receptive to what you’re trying to teach. Those precious times occur across the curriculum.

Often, they suddenly appear without warning. You’re right in the middle of a carefully planned lesson. Your kids are well-prepared and on task, (at least, most of them are!). They are paying attention, participating in the class discussion or working on the assigned activity, be it a cooperative group project or one that requires them to work alone.

Everything is proceeding as expected when suddenly an event occurs that may redirect the lesson completely.

This is a teachable moment. It often takes you by surprise. Something happens that you didn’t anticipate. Frequently it originates with one student’s question or comment, but it can also start with the insight of a small group of students or even the thoughts of the whole class. You could ignore it, but you won’t. It offers you a rare opportunity to help your kids understand a concept or acquire a skill beyond those demanded by your lesson plan and your curriculum guide. So you adapt. You change your lesson to maximize the value of the teachable moment. Teachable moments can also originate with public events, like elections.

Before I retired, I was a junior-senior high school American history teacher for 25 years in Indiana’s public and nonpublic schools. During the two weeks preceding a general election, Indiana law, (IC 20-30-5-4), requires all public and nonpublic secondary schools, (grades 6-12), to teach an election unit to all students. The unit must include five class periods and explain characteristics of Indiana and U.S. government, the role of political parties, the actual voting process, and the citizen’s duty to vote.

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