Moments in which students become totally engrossed in the subject frequently happen in discussion times based on readings from literature or in written response to reading selections.
Following the reading of To See it Fall (p.397 in CLE’s Perspectives of Truth anthology), my classes frequently immersed themselves in discussing whether the men were foolish to chop down a 300’ tall, 42’ diameter redwood just “to see it fall.” It’s quite fascinating to hear them explain why they were or were not glad the tree fell while they slept. This leads to discussion of what is the meaning, purpose, and justification of doing things for fun, what are the limits of “play” for men, what constitutes recreation, etc. We’re all pulled into the subject together.
One year, as a group project in generating maxims drawn from Pearl Buck’s The Big Wave, grades 7 & 8 as a group exceeded my expectations and generated a list of 38 mostly profound maxims. Examples: Tears can comfort the heart. One can never be truly happy until he can bear to think about the sad things of the past. We sometimes do not realize that we are happy. You cannot make a real choice if you are already partly decided. In this case, “time stood still” as the group’s list of maxims grew.
Imagining applications of scientific principles to everyday life has often intrigued students, such as offering examples of how the absence of gravity would affect the arrangement of desks throughout the space in a classroom (who gets to sit in the top rows?), eating lunch (any need for trays?), playing games on the playground (essentially the “playspace”). Such discussions lead into conclusions such as the necessity of gravity for our world to work.
I suggest you try posing a question from a recent Marshall Memo article in which a third grade student noted that 1/3 = .3333… and 2/3=.6666… but 3/3 = 1. Why doesn’t 3/3 = .9999…? I wonder what your class would do with that one. Try it and see.