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Table of contents
Written by:
Martin Barrett
Last Updated:
What Are Teachable Moments

What Are Teachable Moments?

If you are a teacher, teachable moments are opportunities that arise unexpectedly during class discussions or lessons.

They can come in many forms—a student asking a question about a topic covered in class, a student sharing an opinion about something he or she learned recently, or a student expressing frustration over a difficult assignment.

These kinds of unexpected events provide teachers with an opportunity to guide their students toward deeper understanding.

Teachable moments do not necessarily involve a change in subject matter or even a change in grade level.

So what Are Teachable Moments exactly?

For example, a middle school teacher might use a teachable moment involving a discussion about how to prepare for college to introduce the idea of career planning.

In another situation, a high school teacher might use a talk about the importance of good citizenship to prompt students to think about what kind of person they want to become.

Teachable moments often lead to longer-term learning experiences. For instance, a student who shares his or her opinion about a controversial issue in class might later write a paper on the topic.

Or a student who expresses frustration over an assignment might decide to take some extra time studying and earn better grades next quarter.

Creating teachable moments 

Teaching moments happen every day, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re teaching kids or adults. A great way to create a teachable opportunity is to ask students to do something related to the material being taught.

For example, if you are teaching a unit on fractions, you could ask students to find a fraction that represents some part of themselves. Or, you might ask them to make a collage based on photos they’ve taken during class.

If you’re teaching about the Great Depression, you might ask students to write letters to someone living in poverty today. In each case, you’ll have students talking about the topic while providing you with insight into how they think about the subject.

Set up a ‘classroom of curiosity’ so that teachable moments can occur 

There are many ways you can create a daycare or preschool class that creates teachable moments as an Early Childhood Educator.

But there are many more things to consider when designing a classroom environment that encourages learning. Here are just a few of the most important aspects to keep in mind.

1. Age Appropriate Materials

When setting up a classroom, it’s imperative that you use age-appropriate materials. This includes everything from furniture to books to art supplies.

If you want your kids to learn how to write letters, you wouldn’t give them crayons and markers. Likewise, if you want your children to develop fine motor skills, you won’t put out a bunch of construction paper and glue sticks.

2. Sensory Tables

Another way to encourage teachable moments is by providing sensory activities. This could mean having a sensory table, where kids can explore textures, colors, shapes, sounds, and tastes.

When used properly, sensory activities help kids build cognitive skills such as problem solving, memory, language and attention. They also help kids understand cause and effect and make connections between different stimuli.

Small children

Set up a ‘classroom of curiosity' so that teachable moments can occur 

As we have seen, Teachable Moments are opportunities to deliver important information in unexpected situations. They occur unexpectedly, and usually involve children or young people.

In fact, there are many different types of teachable moments and if you work with small children there are a plethora of opportunities to teach little ones the way of the world. These moments can come in the form of: 

  • Unplanned Lessons – Children may learn something while playing, doing chores, or even during a fire drill.
  • Intentional Teaching – Some teachers intentionally set up teachable moments throughout the school day.
  • Opportunity Learning – Teachers and caregivers look for opportunities to help students learn.
  • Situational Learning – Students learn things when they observe others around them.
  • Social Learning – Children learn about social norms and appropriate behavior by observing others.
  • Observational Learning – Students learn by watching what happens around them.

The early childhood educator knows that every moment counts. Every interaction with her students is a chance to learn something about them and about themselves.

And it’s good practice to take advantage of those interactions whenever possible. Look for ways to connect with children in meaningful ways, whether it’s giving them a hug or helping them solve a problem.

Childhood educators must be ready to recognize the teachable moments that arise naturally. When we see a spark of interest in a child, or a question that pops up unexpectedly, we can seize the opportunity to teach.

We can provide additional information or offer a different perspective. We can even ask a few follow-up questions. If we wait too long, however, the teachable moment might pass us by.


Of course, it isn’t just teachers that can take advantage of teachable moments but parents and other adults can do so too. For example, While driving in the car, you notice a beautiful rainbow.

As you pull over to take pictures, your young son asks what it is. You explain how rainbows occur because water droplets bounce off each other and form a circle.

Then you ask him why he pointed out the rainbow to you. He tells you that he saw it while playing outside and wanted to show it to you. You thank him for his honesty and then you discuss the importance of being honest and sharing kindness with others.

Another example is that you may be out shopping with your children and you go to the shop and head straight to the refrigerator to buy some milk and head to the checkout.

The person behind you sees that you only have one carton and lets you go ahead of her. You tell her that you want to thank her for letting you go ahead of her in the checkout line.

She smiles and thanks you for saying something nice. You both agree that people should always say things like that to each other and continue shopping. This is another opportunity to discuss kindness with your kids. 

Identifying them 

Teachable moments are those unexpected situations where you can help your children learn something important about themselves or others.

They require little planning and preparation, and they happen spontaneously. They’re often unplanned opportunities to practice skills like empathy, self-control, and patience.

Because a teachable moment requires little preparation and these opportunities are spontaneous, the moment can occur anytime, anywhere. So how do you identify them?

Here are some tips to help you spot the teachable moments that arise during daily life:

  • Be observant.
  • Pay attention to the environment around you.
  • Look for patterns.
  • Watch for changes in behavior.


Teachable moments are opportunities for children to learn through exploration. By creating a classroom environment that promotes these moments and looking out for them you’re helping your students or children grow into independent learners.