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One class had too many children who had ditched the deep reading homework assigned. Be- cause I had committed to Copeland’s advice should this happen, I cancelled the circle. They were shocked, but by the next day, every single child of the 26 showed up with it finished.

Teacher note: Believe it or not, this was the only time all year a circle was cancelled. Word spread but fast.

The third deep reading, an “Agnes” cartoon from Sunday’s paper bombed. It focused upon the “dumbing down of communication.” Humorous in a teacher’s eyes, it definitely was not anything in an eighth grader’s. I was tempted to drop that one after my first class tried it on for size. However, my extended group, students who take Spanish or French, chewed on it, identifying with trying to share ideas with people who don’t perceive their meaning, both in a native tongue, and again in a new language.

November: Research due dates hit. I cooled on “deep readings” but still had not completed a non-fiction piece—so chose the Pledge of Allegiance. I asked classes how a President might be affected by such a pledge. The majority of children felt thoroughly knowledgeable about this one and assured me they knew all words, understood all inferences, and could recite it sideways. But two days later, during the Socratic Circles, the children whose parents were sta- tioned out of country were the most thoughtful about the full impact and sacrifice of those words. In one class, we listened as one child teared up sharing the definition of the word, “liberty,” and its implications upon three generations of her family. The inner circle silenced, and friends sitting near her put their arms about her shoulders. Dialogue then homed in on the war and its implications upon students standing and thoughtlessly repeating the words.

December/ January: Two pieces followed: Jack London’s philosophy, “I’d rather be ashes than dust,” and “Praise Song for the Day,” by Elizabeth Alexander. The inaugural poem read aloud at President Obama’s inauguration underwhelmed my classes. We visited a news link and listened to the poet read her own poem aloud. We then discussed whether we had been un- fairly judging the poem based on her “flatline” reading of it. In Circle, students revisited the wording and were struck by the simplicity of the deep thinking expressed.

February: I presented a deep reading that had impressed me years ago. It was Robert P. Tris-

tram Coffin’s poem, “Crystal Moment.” (See Figure 4 - following page.)

All classes discussed and analyzed this poem in great detail. Its imagery, rhythm, symbolism, theme, and story struck an eighth grade nerve. I was blown out of my socks, so much so that I then posted a blog upon my page in our School Fusion program asking children if they’d had “crystal moments,” those moments in which time seems suspended and is very terrify-

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Virginia Educational Leadership

Vol. 7 No. 1

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