One problem in classrooms today is teachers “spoon feeding” students the answers. It is important that we as educators remember that powerful learning takes place when students solve problems on their own. For example, give students wait time, or as we call it, “thinking time” to communicate their thoughts about their learning. We also have to remember that the objective is not always for the students to have the right answer, but the journey of them coming up with solutions through trial and error and gaining knowledge by making mistakes through exploration and discovery is what is most important. Allowing students time to discover the answer on their own or providing students time to explain their way of coming up with the answer in a different way can show students that there is more than one way to find a solution to a problem. It is vital, however, to know when to interject and when to step back.
As I have learned through my years of teaching, balance is key. Interweaving explicit teaching and providing students with opportunities for implicit learning (like project based learning) and knowing when to let go is part of developing your craft as an educator. For students learning a second language, the need for explicit teaching is greater given the cognitive developmental stage at the time of exposure to their new language, especially when it comes to skills like spelling or grammar. This is where you can address student need through conferencing or small group instruction. It is important to keep in mind student need, level of proficiency, student motivation and interest, as well as academic requirements.
It is important to understand that students learn best through active participation, experience, and discovery. Creating a natural learning environment, provides opportunities for students to make powerful connections to their schema and new topics in which they are exploring in an organic and more meaningful way. What can be difficult is finding those teachable moments, those “aha” moments, those moments where the light bulb goes off. As teachers we always have to be searching and listening so that we can hone in on those opportunities and pave the way for the magic to happen. That, is the best kind of magic!