An Unplanned Lesson

While this blog will usually be about my experiences teaching coding, I have a wonderful recent story I can’t help but share.

On Friday mornings, I volunteer at a local elementary school, helping run a robotics club for 5th graders. This past Friday, there were a wonderful five minutes of learning that were totally unplanned (and unplann-able!), but that were the best few minutes of my day – and they didn’t have anything do to with robotics.

The scene: myself and two students returning a cart of laptops to the classroom after club:

  • Student A, humming “Jingle Bells”: “uggg, I don’t even know why I have this song stuck in my head!”
  • Me: “Well, it’s a good time of year to have Christmas songs stuck in your head!”
  • A: “Except I celebrate Hanukkah, so it’s a little awkward”
  • Me: “You can just get some Hanukkah songs stuck in your head instead!”
  • Student B: “Are there even Hanukkah songs?”
  • A: “Yeah, there are.. like…”
  • A starts singing “I have a little dreidel”, I join in
  • We finish the first bit of the song, return the cart, and the students go off to start school

In just these few minutes, some amazing learning was able to happen –

  • I was able to connect with a student in a way outside of lesson plans. Students’ faces light right up when you can talk (or sing!) with them about their life outside of your lesson plans, and they will transfer that connection back to your classes.
  • I have an opportunity to deepen this connection in the future, simply by recalling it and wishing her a Happy Hanukkah before winter break.
  • The other student got to learn something about another culture/religion that she may not have otherwise, and have a personal connection to it, because she learned it directly from a peer

Those lessons and connections are hard enough to build into a curriculum when you try!

Lesson learned: always be ready to jump in and learn at a moment’s notice.


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