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impressions count?” As bait to set the stage, I led my classes in an impromptu “sloppy circle,” from which I gathered quick teacher-notes. On the spur of the moment with heart pound- ing, I invited our assistant principal, Mrs. Judy Mears, to observe our first circle. During the exchange of the outer circle with the inner circle, she noted that although many good ideas were brought up, nobody was listening; all were intent on yelling out how smart their own ideas were. Point made: for the rest of the year, students and I would hark back on these very


Teacher idea: don’t be afraid to invite guests!

The next day, we debriefed completely, a crucial part of the Socratic Circle success, differ- entiating between true discourse and debate. We discussed the public debates on TV, list- ing campaign promises and leadership roles, as well as citizens’ rights and responsibilities. Our eighth grade department decided to seize upon the upcoming election for use as our research unit. We wanted to focus on expository writing that analyzes how the media influ- ences public opinion, a victory for researching timeliness. However, in my classes, because I could not figure out a way to hold a Socratic Circle without its turning into a debate, I conve- niently solved this by dropping it during the rest of September. Meanwhile, the classes clam- ored for more circles: “Please? Please?”

October: I was champing at the bit to introduce anything about leadership models for a future Socratic Circle. As a “deep reading,” I used a cartoon aimed at the role models in baseball. After the children’s initial shock, “You’re not supposed to analyze cartoons! Are you kidding?” we set to work. During a 15 minute whole group teaching period, overhead blazing and personal cop- ies at hand, students analyzed the setting clues, the “cartoon’s story,” and the target audience. We “coded the text,” looked for repeated words, for setting clues, for inferential insights. We discussed author purpose and jargon used in the cartoon to emphasize its message.

With each class that day, I was surprised by insights and analytical comments. My last period class, my “Is this teacher worthy?” challenge group, left me awe-struck. Their real world ex- periences were intuitive and true to the mark. Homework that night was to write a 25 word summary of our class discussion and analysis.

The following week, I again primed the class by asking the initiating question,” What do you look for in a teacher as a role model?” We had another enthusiastic sloppy Circle with this one, leading to at least six to seven children in each class asking, “When can we do this again? Tomorrow?” Wow. More teacher bait. I lost my head and proposed we do this activ- ity every two weeks or so. Exactly what Matt Copeland had suggested, come to think of it. Knowing the classes had to understand how to analyze all sorts of literary texts, I turned to poetry to offset the rigors of the research unit. Our next deep reading activity used was Charles Suhor’s poem, “Suppose Columbus,” in honor of Columbus Day. This was distributed,

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