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Lately I’ve been talking to some friends and colleagues about what engagement looks like in the classroom. Sometimes it is easy to define, sometimes I work hard to come up with an all-encompassing definition, and sometimes it unfolds in front of me – as it did today.
Our class read aloud is an ARC called Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. (Release date of 3/25/14) This is a book I loved the first time I read it, but reading it with my students brings it to a whole new level. My students beg me to read more each day. We have great conversations about the world that Piper lives in, the friendship she and Anna have, and how different their lives are then ours.
This week we have had the chance to read even more than normal. With state testing filling our mornings, our after schedules are completely out of whack. As a result, we’ve had some extra reading time. Today we raced to finish a chapter. I will be out of the building tomorrow and they had to know what would happen before I left. As I read, I noticed kids were moving closer to me, leaning in. Chairs pulled forward, groans could be heard as I paused; exclamations of the gravity of the situation Piper and her friends found themselves in. Ten minutes passed. Twenty. Thirty. I glanced up and realized that we had three minutes until we must line up for Art. I looked back at the book reading aloud while also scanning ahead to see if I could finish the chapter. I saw the last line of the chapter and smiled. We needed to reach that.
Tensions mounted as the scene unfolded, Piper, Anna, and Gee trying to protect the amazing train that they were traveling on. I will leave out the details of the scene so you can experience them yourself, suffice to say the chapter ended with a line that went something like, “And with that, Piper let go.”
I said it, closed the book, and looked up. Kids rose up from their chairs in protest. Groans coursed across the room. From one child I heard, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
I tried hard to suppress the grin that was threating to break through. “Sorry, guys, I can’t control the time, we have to go to Art.”
They begged, they pleaded, and then they lined up. The entire way there, even though they were supposed to be quiet in the halls, I heard murmured conversations about what was going to happen next.
One student looked at me and said, “You know, that really wasn’t fair.”
I replied, “I know, but wasn’t it great?” The grin I got in return told me that he agreed. And that, my friends, is engagement.