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The Big Fresh July 14, 2018 Work and Play

Brenda Power

This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.
                                                                 Alan Watts

In the middle of a lesson, I was relaying some anecdote to my class of 11th grade students that began, “When I was on my way to work . . . ” But before I could even finish my sentence, a boy cocked his head to the side and asked in earnest, “Where do you work?”

There was a beat of silence while I processed his question.

“Here. Right here. I’m at work right now.”

The silliness of the question immediately dawned on the boy and the whole class had a good-natured laugh at the exchange. But the boy’s question stayed with me for the rest of the day. Why didn’t it occur to him that I was working as I stood there and conducted class? What did that say about me? What did that say about my classroom?

I’ve always held myself to the rule that I wouldn’t ask my students to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. If my students are reading independently, I have a book out too. If I ask them to write in their notebooks, I do the same. When I assign any writing, I try it out myself. Perhaps it was this sense of “we’re in this together” that made him forget that I was actually doing a job.

The word work often has a negative connotation. “I have to go to work” isn’t usually uttered in an upbeat fashion. Work can be hard, tiring, and tedious. I’m not saying that teaching is never any of those things, but when I’m with my students those aren’t the feelings I dwell on. Most days I find joy, humor, and personal connections in my classroom.

In the end, I decided to take this boy’s question as a compliment. I was enjoying myself so much, I convinced him that I wasn’t even working at all.

This week we look at the differences between compliance and engagement in literacy workshops. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Gretchen Schroeder
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Gretchen Schroeder teaches 11th and 12th grade English at Millersport High School in Ohio and is a teacher consultant for the Columbus Area Writing Project.

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Melanie Meehan shares five quick tips for increasing student engagement during minilessons:


Are the terms stamina and engagement synonymous? Cathy Mere defines the terms by observing her first graders:


In this infographic, Ellin Keene shares the four pillars of engagement as defined in her new book, Engaging Children:


Last chance to join Jennifer Allen this July 18 - 29 for our online course Literacy Coach Jumpstart. You'll get personal responses from Jen to all your questions, view three webcasts, and receive books, a DVD, and one-month memberships to Choice and Lead Literacy websites. Click on the link for details:



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It's not an invitation if students are required to accept it. Franki Sibberson explains how engagement depends upon true choice and lots of options in her fifth-grade classroom:


This week we close out our month-long video series from Franki's fifth-grade classroom sharing their annotation strategies for independent reading. Orion uses sticky notes to make questions and predictions at the end of each chapter:


Christy Rush-Levine has to figure out how to engage a class of students that is compliant and dutiful, but shows little passion for reading and writing:


From length to heart, Tara Smith provides seven criteria for selecting the first read aloud of the year that can engage students right from the start:


In an encore video, Heather Fisher works with first graders to teach them the strategy of taking "mini-breaks" to sustain reading during workshops:


That's all for this week!

Brenda Power

Brenda Power is the founder of Choice Literacy. She worked for many years as a professor at the University of Maine and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her publications as an author include Living the Questions and The Art of Classroom Inquiry. She has worked as a book editor and video producer for many of the authors featured at this site.