February 16, 2005
I used to think talking off the topic was an intrusion. I use to say things like, 'Don't lose that thought,' 'great idea, now let's get back to the topic.' Or I would offer paper to let the student write down a reminder so we could discuss it later. I never penalized them for thinking, though. Then I realized through research and experience (over 40 years) that it is a good thing. It shows that students are making connections and activating prior knowledge. If we can't see the connection, it doesn't mean it isn't there. In this time of realizing that student-originated instruction is the instruction that sticks, it is a good time to find strategies which can allow for these bumps in the road you planned and be versatile enough to see through the eyes of your client. Educational Leadership, a publication of ASCD, has a whole issue devoted to the idea of student participation in the planning of lessons. They are really curious, and it's our duty to satisfy that curiosity even at the same time meeting standards. It's up to the teacher to find the right connections.