Delaware Writing Project

Student Created Light Bulb Moment

By Lindsey Poinsett

When I first started teaching I was overwhelmed by the expansive amount of content I needed to cover in a year’s time.  I was responsible for guiding my students towards meeting all of the standardiStock_group-work-Smalls in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.  On top of this, I needed to make sure that I was helping the students grow socially and emotionally.  Oh and on top of that, I had to make it fun too so that they would actually enjoy school.  

I quickly learned that this was no small task and became heavily focused on content.  I made my lessons challenging and engaging at the same time.  I pushed my students to get through the material, but still kept running out of time.  Fearing I would not be able to accomplish all of the required skills, I began to look for areas of downtime where I could discreetly sneak in more content.  One of the areas I
looked to was snack time.  Did my fourth graders really need fifteen minutes to eat?  Could I incorporate an educational activity into that time while they enjoyed their snacks?

One of the activities I incorporated into my daily ELA lesson was a read-aloud to the students from one of my favorite chapter books.  This activity was beneficial because it allowed me to model fluency and expression as well as important comprehension skills.  I made the decision to move the read-aloud to snack time so that I could free up valuable time in ELA class but still include reading to the students in our day.  

After a few months, I wondered if this was the right decision.  I had found a way to manage time more efficiently, but my students seemed less engaged in the read-aloud activity.  One day, I decided to go back to the old format of letting students have a break while they ate their snack.  I walked around the room getting things ready for the next lesson and overheard two of the students having a heated discussion.  

As I listened in, I realized that they were discussing the book they had read earlier in ELA class.  They both had different predictions for what was going to happen next and to my surprise, they were backing their predictions with evidence from the text!  

For a minute, I thought I was hallucinating.  Could it be that my students were engaged in a text based argument during their free time?  Yes, they were!  I was so happy I almost broke into tears.  Instead I went back to my desk and let them finish the conversation on their own.  

This will always be one of my happiest moments in my teaching career, but also one of the most enlightening.  I had been under the impression that free time in the classroom was wasted time.  Many teachers feel this way because there is so much content to get through each year.  On this day, during snack time, my students taught me something.  Students deserve breaks in their day.  My students were clearly listening to the things I was teaching them and were able to apply those skills indepen
dently during their conversations with peers during those short breaks.

Now, I’m not saying that every time students have a break they will engage in intense literary discussions.  Most of the breaks in my classroom are filled with video game discussions, bathroom humor, and sports talk.  However, even in these conversations they are using creativity, analysis, and other important critical thinking skills.  Not every moment needs to be a well planned teaching moment, but every moment has the potential to be an impromptu learning moment.  In this moment, I surprisingly learned more than my students.


About the Author

Lindsey Poinsett is currently a fourth grade teacher at Saint Edmond’s Academy, a private school for boys in grades JK-8th in Wilmington, DE.  She teaches multiple subjects but enjoys teaching English Language Arts and social studies the most.  Lindsey graduated from The University of Delaware in 2009 with a Bachelors of Science in Education and recently earned her Masters degree in reading instruction from Wilmington University during the spring of 2016.

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