Scaffolding & Extending Knowledge: How a Hairstyle Became a Teachable Moment

Educators spend a lot of time talking about teachable moments.  We know that some of the most important learning takes place when we respond to children’s curiosity rather than stick to the written plan.  In preschools, teachers place things in classrooms and offer unique experiences to try to spark curiosity.  I recently attended a workshop for K-12 teachers about how to purposefully peek curiosity by doing things like more dramatic presentations, using props and writing mysterious messages on the white/chalk board. All of those methods have merit as we try to engage students but some of the best teachable moments come from the unexpected and create magic.   The trick is noticing the moment and capturing it.  The teacher needs to be actively listening to and watching students in order to capitalize on the curiosity that can be shown in a split second. Parents can do the same at home.

Before and after
Last week, I got a haircut and changed the style.  I usually wear my hair in its naturally curly state but I arrived at preschool after my hairdresser had blown out the curls.  When I walked into the preschool classroom, the students paused.  Students looked at me.  They looked away and looked back.  They obviously noticed something, but what?  And how could their glances be teachable?

We gathered for group time and I asked, “What is different today?”  That led to all of this:

  • We used the comparison term "different."  We asked the children what is different today.  They named students who were absent.  They talked about the snow outside.  They talked about the cold.  They said a number of things that were different from the last time we were together.   Finally (and I do mean lastly), one student said, "Your hair is different."
  • We used memory and observation skills.  I asked, "What is different about my hair?"  One student asked if I got it cut and I confirmed that.  Then, one student added, "It isn't curly."
  • We learned that what you think of something is your opinion and everyone can have an opinion.  I asked each student's opinion so we could vote.  Each student said if they liked my hair better curly or straight.
  • We counted the votes.  Nine students voted for straight and six students voted for curly.
  • We used the math terms "more" and "less."  We saw that straight got more votes but not by much!
  • Just talking about my haircut is a life lesson.  I survived the dreaded haircut and maybe they will think of that when they are afraid of the stranger with the scissor.
Who knew that a staff members' hair could lead to such interest?!   The students were enthralled by the conversation.  The skills that we used are important cognitive skills and all are listed in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards.

When children stare at something or otherwise show interest in something in their world, don’t just tell them about what they see.  Ask them about it.  Help them to build knowledge through critical thinking.  You never know where one question can lead. 


Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
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