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Critical Moments: How Focusing on Individual Words Can Lead to Learning

Student Learning Teaching Strategies and Techniques

Critical Moments: How Focusing on Individual Words Can Lead to Learning

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In the very first article I ever wrote for The Teaching Professor, I quoted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Elective Affinities: “A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects, classified with name and form.” My article, “The Lesson Is Too Much with Us: Recognizing Teaching Moments,” has a simple thesis: “Sometimes we are so concerned with following our lesson plans to the letter that we miss what is truly important: teaching moments.” In my article, I define “teaching moments” as organic instances where the possibility of pedagogy arises from a teacher’s listening skills. Students’ obvious interest in a specific aspect of class discussion inspires the teacher to “let go” of the day’s plans and journey with the students down a new, unforeseen, and potentially fruitful pathway toward learning.

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