Close Reading: Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

When we first discussed this text with the two teachers who were leading the project, Nealie Bourdon and Becky Campbell, they questioned our choice because they felt that the poem was too difficult for their students. We argued that we wanted to challenge the students with a poem that would require them to stretch intellectually. We reassured Nealie and Becky that, given the right kind of coaching, the students would rise to the occasion.

The eight lines in Dickinson's poem were the "system" we were asking the 6th graders to "explain and manipulate." There were profound questions inherent to the poem that made this system increasingly complex as the students studied it: What is poetry? What is the nature of truth? How does poetry function in relation to truth? The questions involving poetry were tied directly to the standardized curriculum that Nealie and Becky were responsible for teaching their students, and the even deeper questions involving truth made the whole cycle relevant for the students.

While studying the poem, the students themselves realized that Dickinson's second line ("Success in Circuit lies") reflects the thinking process; successful thought often involves circling a problem multiple times, gaining understanding with each circuit.


Folksonomies: education literacy close reading

/art and entertainment/books and literature/poetry (0.753769)
/family and parenting/children (0.353972)
/science/social science/philosophy (0.353918)

problem multiple times (0.934857 (neutral:0.000000)), truth (0.852603 (positive:0.612667)), Emily Dickinson (0.752346 (neutral:0.000000)), infirm Delight (0.731275 (positive:0.747359)), Close Reading (0.704566 (neutral:0.000000)), Becky Campbell (0.701623 (neutral:0.000000)), students (0.685410 (positive:0.123139)), explanation kind (0.666248 (neutral:0.000000)), Nealie Bourdon (0.647547 (neutral:0.000000)), standardized curriculum (0.635157 (positive:0.303285)), right kind (0.624632 (positive:0.392314)), successful thought (0.604340 (neutral:0.000000)), profound questions (0.600600 (negative:-0.277835)), deeper questions (0.599614 (positive:0.585217)), poetry function (0.578986 (neutral:0.000000)), poem (0.560184 (negative:-0.321112)), circuit (0.455300 (positive:0.276680)), surprise (0.310538 (positive:0.885584)), slant— (0.302973 (neutral:0.000000)), graders (0.302234 (neutral:0.000000)), Lightning (0.297080 (negative:-0.554167)), Children (0.294878 (negative:-0.554167)), man (0.292804 (neutral:0.000000)), blind— (0.292729 (neutral:0.000000)), occasion (0.290718 (neutral:0.000000)), text (0.287275 (neutral:0.000000)), teachers (0.287134 (neutral:0.000000)), project (0.286958 (neutral:0.000000)), lines (0.285724 (neutral:0.000000)), nature (0.284667 (positive:0.388038))

Emily Dickinson:Person (0.881294 (neutral:0.000000)), Becky Campbell:Person (0.719843 (positive:0.399368)), Nealie Bourdon:Person (0.658688 (positive:0.399368))

Thought (0.939249): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Emily Dickinson (0.890705): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Mind (0.760615): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Critical thinking (0.681906): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Education (0.655658): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Explanation (0.630678): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Theory (0.582137): dbpedia | freebase
Bright\'s disease (0.575508): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Thinking Is Literacy, Literacy Thinking
Periodicals>Magazine Article:  Roberts, Terry and Billings, Laura (February 2008), Thinking Is Literacy, Literacy Thinking, February 2008 | Volume 65 | Number 5 , Retrieved on 2016-01-19
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: education literacy