Light Bulb Moments: Igniting Students Interest in Their Own Learning

What is it you love about teaching? I have a few favorites.

More than anything I love to see the light bulb moments. You know what I mean — you see them, too. The thinking becomes almost visible like a thought bubble above a student’s head, then the thought spins a cartwheel, lands on both feet, and ignites some insightful murmur.

“Ohhh, I get it,” sighs the student.

I long for these moments.

I get them with my students, sure, but lately it’s teachers who have warmed my heart as they’ve come to embrace the philosophies of readers-writers workshop.

In December, I facilitated a workshop training in a district in my home state of TX. A little while later, I exchanged some messages with Candice Thibodeaux, an English department manager and English III teacher in Clear Creek ISD who attended that training. I asked if I could share her comments (although I am late in doing so) because I think they may speak to many of our readers who are new to implementing the moves of workshop in their classrooms.

Candice:  I wanted to say once again that it was a pleasure to meet you. I think why it was so easy to hear your message is because there was no doubt you understood where we were because you are in the same trenches we are each day. I was already convinced that I wanted to move my department to the workshop method, but you cleared up some fuzzies and gave me a lot of confidence. I feel like I am in the infancy stages of implementing it, but you have me so excited. I am worried I may not implement my thematic idea well, but I am going to jump in and take note of what works and what doesn’t. I feel it has the possibility to ignite the students interest in their own learning.

Me:  Your ideas for the thematic units are fantastic, and I think you will be so pleased with the responses you get from your students. And once your teachers see the kind of engagement and work your students produce, they will be more apt to want to join in the thinking and planning for workshop. Remember to be patient with yourself. There are just a few things that really matter: choice, time to read and time to write, lots of talk around books and writing, talking to kids one on one about all of it. I know we focus on the standards a lot in Texas, but really, good reading and writing requires skills that are reciprocal — and practice is what matters most.

Candice:  Thanks so much for the response! I am so anxious to get back to school because I


Ready for student talk. Candice’s new classroom set up invites collaboration.

did a whole lot over the break that will be so much fun to put into action. I changed my room so we can do group work easier. I cataloged all of my classroom library so students can check out online. I bought more books (which hubby was thrilled about and a little blown away as he helped me catalog almost 1,000 books, lol) and I created a quick PD for my teachers tomorrow based on my time with you and the reading I have done. I am very excited to see if I can light a fire with my teachers. My department is on board but for the most part is still very unsure what it all looks like.

Candice:  The themes I picked [for my units] are war, race relations, technology, self image, and a catch all of society issues (depression, teen pregnancy, drug use, crime, violence). I expect to get a lot of discussion, reading, and writing out of all that; plus, students will do their own video PSA and print ad. I am very excited and have written letters to parents reminding them about free choice reading and telling them about thematic units, and encouraging them to discuss what their child is reading/writing/thinking. So we shall see….

Oh, yes, you shall see! You’ll see more reading, more writing, more engagement, and tons of learning — for students and for you as their teacher.
That’s another thing I love about teaching:  I learn with my students. We share our thinking as readers and writers in my workshop classroom. I am not the sage on the stage, nor the keeper of the knowledge. We all are. We are all discovering the world through the texts we read, and writing about our world through the texts we write.
Last week Jessica wrote Readers-Writers Workshop: But, Does It Work? and Lisa wrote Looking to the Future: Students as Changemakers. Both address the needs of the students who sit in our classrooms every single day.
Candice is like them, and her light bulb moments moved me at that workshop training back in December. She is like many other teachers who know her students need more. And I cannot wait to hear how her thematic units go as she shares her love of all things literacy with her students. (Hey, Candice, are you ready to write that guest post yet?)

photo by Jayden Yoon

If you have ideas for articles, poems, videos, or more Candice might be able to pair with other texts in her units, please add your ideas in the comments. (Oh, there’s an idea for some pretty cool collaborative text sets. I’m gonna have to think about that.)


Amy Rasmussen lives in north Texas and teaches AP English Language and English 3 to the Fighting Farmers at Lewisville High School. She adheres to the words of Emerson: “We aim above the mark to hit the mark,” and Jesus Christ: “Love one another.” Imagine a world if we all love more than we think we can. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyrass.



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6 thoughts on “Light Bulb Moments: Igniting Students Interest in Their Own Learning

  1. […] it The Savior Complex.  We want to save all the students–ALL OF THEM.  And by save, I mean engage, facilitate growth in life and learning, help them to feel loved and valued, encourage their […]


  2. Candice February 7, 2017 at 2:03 pm Reply

    Oh and Amy the thematic unit is going really well…I am getting close to being ready to share!


  3. Candice February 7, 2017 at 2:01 pm Reply

    Jess I did buy 2 for $20 and I have 8. They are really helpful and the kids love them and take ownership of them. I have the desks labeled A-D as well so this makes for many ways to group or call on someone. Lisa, the top drawer is for cell phones and the rule is if I see the phone then it goes in the drawer. Every period I have a few that put it in there at the start of class. It has been a saving grace and has almost taken the conversation of put your phone up out of my room. If I open the drawer they know to put it in there, without me saying a thing.


  4. Lisa Dennis February 7, 2017 at 7:48 am Reply

    Amy, I love this post. You inspire so many educators! I should know. xoxo.
    Plus…You turned MY quote into a visual?!? I LOVE it. I can retire now.

    Jess…I have seen those towers on Amazon. Set of two for 20 bucks.

    Candice, how are you going to use them? I’d love to have my students shove their phones in there (Cough, cough). 🙂


  5. jessgobble February 7, 2017 at 7:25 am Reply

    ALL-AMERICAN BOYS has been a new favorite in my classroom after I book talked it.

    I have a question for Candice: How much of an investment were those tower thingies for your groups? I like that idea!


  6. Amy Estersohn (@HMX_MsE) February 7, 2017 at 7:18 am Reply

    Race Relations:

    ALL-AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds
    THE HATE U GIVE (Feb 2017 release) by Angie Thomas

    for self-image (body image) I am thinking about DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy. I haven’t read it yet, but Julie is a fellow Texan author.

    Technology … hmm… maybe Hidden Figures (young readers’ edition or not) or a Steve Jobs biography?


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