December 5, 2022
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President of Center for Inspired Teaching
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
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There are many synonyms for the word inspire. Among them are to motivate and to encourage. A less familiar synonym is to stir.
Imagine engaging students in a lesson that is so compelling, that sparks their curiosity so deeply, that they find it stirring! Imagine how deeply students would delve into the material, how hard they’d work, if they felt this way.
That’s what the Inspired Teaching Approach is all about. It’s a student-led, curiosity-based approach to teaching and learning that places the student in the role of emerging expert and the teacher in the role of Instigator of Thought.
At its core, Inspired Teaching is a mindset. It’s a way of seeing our job as teachers. It’s an unapologetic commitment to prioritizing curiosity – on the part of the student and the teacher. Inspired Teachers strive to spark students’ curiosity in every lesson. We ask, “What might be interesting or important or useful about this skill or topic?” as an ongoing part of lesson planning, and in the moment while we are teaching.
What might be interesting or important or useful about… multiplying fractions? Here are some things that come to mind:
- Halving the recipe that usually results in 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies
- Calculating the price of a fabulous sweater that was half-off but, on Black Friday, is discounted an additional 25%
- Figuring out how much time we get for recess if we have ¾ of an hour for lunch and can spend half of our lunch break on the playground
What might be interesting or important or useful about… the works of Chaucer? This list can get you started:
- Looking at how the English language has changed over time (i.e. the difference between Middle English and the English we speak today); wondering how our language might be changing now, or what it might be like a few hundred years into the future
- Investigating why Chaucer’s writings persist 700 years after he wrote, while the work of other authors faded
- Wondering how many other people were writing things down back in the fourteenth century
- Not to mention the many interesting and relevant (and compelling!) themes in The Canterbury Tales…
What might be interesting or important or useful about… the US Constitution?
- A few years back it might have been interesting to ask if there are parts of the Constitution upon which public figures disagree.
- Today it would be fascinating to investigate the question: is there any part of the US Constitution on which we all agree?
The list could go on forever.
Inspired Teachers ask, “Why might this be interesting or important or useful?” for every single subject or concept we teach, every single time we teach it, even if it’s the 100th time. Embracing this curiosity-based mindset helps us continue to build our own fascination with the topics we teach, just as we strive to do the same for our students.
Wishing you a week of interesting, important, and useful teaching. May you and your students experience the kind of inspiration that stirs up curiosity, this week and every week.
3 Ways to Stir Up Curiosity This Week
Tap Into the Senses
Our 5 senses help us understand the world around us. And they are prime tools for tapping into curiosity. The seasons are changing, December is a month filled with sensory delights. How might you incorporate sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing into your lessons? You’ll find some ideas here.
Consider Different Perspectives
In whatever you’re teaching, looking at the content from different perspectives is a good way to practice critical thinking and empathy. Have students discuss a story from different characters’ viewpoints, apply word problems in a variety of contexts, look at historical events from the viewpoints of different participants, and reflect on the importance of a scientific concept at a micro and macro level. Zoom Out offers one sort of structure for this kind of perspective-taking.
Move and Explore Materials
Whatever the subject you’re teaching, look for ways to incorporate hands-on materials or experience. We learn best when we are physically involved in the experience. That can mean acting out a scene, dancing through a concept, or playing with manipulatives. The key is that we’re moving our bodies in some way as we learn. The week before winter break is a great time to bring in a bunch of materials and let students create and learn.
Thank you for supporting Center for Inspired Teaching, and our work to share the Inspired Teaching Approach with teachers and students, during Giving Tuesday. Your donations are keeping us strong. And if you haven’t given yet but wanted to, it’s not too late! Donate here.