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Transcript of Socratic Seminars:
Discussion Forums for the 21st Century Classroom
What is it?
A method used to understand information by creating dialogue in class regarding a specific text and topic
Participants seek deeper understanding of the complex ideas in a text through rigorous thoughtful dialogue, rather than by memorizing bits of information
How does it work?
There are two circles: an inner circle and an outer circle
Discussion Leader opens with opening question.
Students in the inner circle will contribute answers in a dialectic manner. Which means students participate in natural discussion, not hand raising.
Students in the outer circle will be pairing up with one person in the inner circle and standing or sitting directly behind them, observing their behavior during the discussion and writing down their participant’s behavior on the evaluation sheet.
Students further the discussion by asking their own questions.
Common Core Connections
Seminar vs. Class Discussion
97% student talk
Student average response is 8-12 seconds
No teacher approval or disapproval
(affirming feedback is taboo)
thinking is paramount and supported with textual
students listen to peers
student ownership for "flow"
specific accountability as testing/documented evidence for grading
97% teacher talk
Student average response 2-3 seconds
teacher judgment-emphasis on correctness, limited extended thinking
correctness is paramount, thinking ends as soon as one is right or wrong
students listen primarily to teacher
Teacher ownership for "flow"
A "frill"; nebulously, it counts as a participation grade. If absent, they didn't really miss anything, just a class discussion
Possible Topics for Socratic Discussion
to discuss current events
to discuss important issues in the classroom
to discuss topics that have more than one point of view
to discuss literature
to discuss social situations
to problem solve
You engage in discussion, actively participating, but not dominating.
You read aloud excerpts from the text to support or make a point, drawing our attention to the words the author chose to use (diction).
Listen to each other carefully.
Look the speaker in the eye.
Do not interrupt.
Use each other’s names.
Paraphrase what the speaker before you has said to respond responsibly. Support or refute the prior speaker’s ideas.
Stick to the text. Your point or opinion only matters if you can support your ideas.
Formulate effective discussion questions to further discussion and analysis of text and essential question.
If you are confused about another speaker’s point, question him or her.
Discuss ideas; do not attack people.
Inner Circle Expectations
Outer Circle Expectations
You are silent, but talking back by taking notes and passing notes ("fish food").
When do you think the inner circle “sparked”? How did that happen?
Track the person most directly in front of you. Did he/she contribute well (neither dominate nor duck discussion)? Explain.
To what idea were you dying to respond to? What would you have said?
What was the single most important idea discussed? Why?
What was the single most important idea that didn’t get discussed? Why?
What could have made the discussion more constructive?
Facilitator/Discussion Leader Expectations
Facilitator, not director
Teacher's sole responsibility is to pose well thought out, open-ended questions
Wait...have the students run this discussion
Encourage the thought process, metacognition
The teacher gives no response to any comment, negative or positive, to the students' discussion
The teacher can pose more questions to "move" the discussion from stalemate positions
Ensure that discussion etiquette is being followed
about the text / initiating
within the text / analysis
beyond the text / evaluative
Using Socratic Seminar Across the Curriculum
English: to discuss literature or a nonfiction article
Science: to discuss a current topic or to problem solve in a science related field: forensics, bioethics, chemical warfare, etc.
Social Studies: to discuss a social issue or current event
Math: to discuss ways a given topic can be used in real life situations or problem solve: buying a house, choosing a lender, creating a budget, choosing a college, career, etc.
Media/Computer Science: to discuss best way to utilize technology and social medias in real world scenarios
Art: to discuss various artists, artworks, inspirations, compare stylistic periods, societal impact of art
Music: to discuss possible interpretations, cultural impact, and movements of music
Foreign Language: to discuss cultural differences or current issues in countries where the language focus is
Physical Education: to discuss topics like personal health, nutrition, current events in sports, sport ethics (PEDs)
Opening Essential Question:
The Pledge of Allegiance has evolved along with our nation over the past few centuries. Does the current version of the pledge reflect our modern nation today, while still holding true to the original principles on which our government is based?