Inquiry through Socratic Seminar
What matters to your kids?
Want to hear student ideas, opinions and voices in your class?
What will get them hyped up?
What are they passionate about?
I was so afraid for so many years of teaching to relinquish what seemed like control. I thought in my head, I went to school to do this, I must know better than kids what they need. Needless to say, I was VERY wrong.
It is so easy to be scared of all of the logistics, of relinquishing control, of not knowing exactly what is going to happen, or what will be said, but it is worth it. I started my exploration into Socratic Seminars as a third year teacher, but a first year 8th grade Math and AVID teacher. I had heard about this "activity" and I started to find videos, and ask colleagues who had done it before to talk me through it. Then I did one, and I have no regrets! You can do it too! Don't be afraid to ask for help to co-plan, co-teach, or more!
I have been praised for the riveting conversations and dialogue that other teachers and adults observed in my classroom, but it was never me who did anything. It was those kids, and their passion coming through. Sure I laid some ground rules, I gave time for students to read and research, we practiced how to respectfully disagree and cite the text, but when it came to Socratic Seminar day, the kids owned it all. After several Socratic Seminars, students even got to class early to start setting up the desks so that they could dialogue bell to bell. The only thing I did the day of a Socratic Seminar was transcribe notes (with no student names) on the board so students could follow along, or those in the outer circle could reflect and take time to think. Students also looked back at these notes the next day to reflect.
If this is still scary, I suggest you keep reading. If it still sounds too scary, consider doing a "silent" Socratic Seminar by sharing a Google Doc with your students and perhaps requiring a certain number of questions and response. Technology scary? Try having questions around the room and allowing students to dialogue as small groups, write answers on posters, and carousel to the next question, and so forth and so on. The point is to get students talking, and inquiring. It is more important to foster their thinking than to fill them with knowledge.
Click READ MORE below for printable resources, videos, and more!
Sometimes I have chosen current events articles, or content-related articles or AVID Weekly articles that range in reading level and subject area. But the most successful Socratic Seminars are ones where students choose the topic. Sometimes they would give me a topic and I would research, other times, I gave them a series of topics and asked them to research.
So now you're thinking to yourself, "But Boggs, I have to teach kids content, how would I possibly have time to do this extra activity?" A Socratic Seminar is a method that allows students to dialogue and question, to make a claim, and support it with evidence from the text, and offer their reasoning. This is useful in ALL content areas!
- Math: Provide an example of student work, and ask students "What did the student do here, and why?" Or provide a test full of common right and/or wrong answers and ask students, "How can we prove if this is correct, or help these students learn from their mistakes?"
Math Socratic Seminar Background Information
- Social Studies: Example texts might include the (1) preamble to the US Constitution, (2) excerpts from a speech, or (3) assign each student a different primary source to analyze and bring varying viewpoints to the dialogue, (4) chapter of text with a reading guide, (5) student essays or DBQs.
Social Studies Socratic Seminar Background Information
More Social Studies Background Information
- ELA: Ask students to analyze the theme of a text, compare and contrast various characters, predict, and more!
NCTE ELA Socratic Seminar Background Information
- Science: There are many controversial topics in science today, and the engineering process and cross-cutting concepts of the NGSS offer opportunities and the need for rich discussion and problem solving among students.
Science Socratic Seminar Background Information & Example Texts
| || |