Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why You Should Use the Socratic Seminar in the Classroom

Last year was the first year I truly used the Socratic Seminar in the classroom with my 7th and 8th grade students.  I found it to be one of the most meaningful instructional strategies I have ever used.

What is the Socratic Seminar?


It is a method of discussion that enables students to take ownership and construct meaning. Students are required to have all read the same text.  They show up for discussion ready to ask questions, respond, and participate.  The responsibility is on the students and not the teacher to construct meaning around the text. However, the first couple times you conduct a seminar you may want to be prepared to step in and guide the conversation a little until students get used to taking more active roles.  Assigning  discussion leaders can also be helpful.

There are many different approaches to setting up and managing socratic seminars.  You can read a blog post HERE where I described last year how I got started with socratic seminars and what I learned from the process.

Why Should You Use the Socratic Seminar?


Why wouldn't you want your students to be deep thinkers who are responsible, can think critically, articulate their thoughts, and conduct civilized discussions with their peers?  Socratic seminars can be conducted in any subject or on any topic.

Resources to get started:


Below are some other articles and posts I found on getting started with planning a socratic seminar.  There are many helpful strategies:

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2010/11/higher-order-comprehension-power-socratic-seminar

http://www.middleweb.com/8989/socratic-seminars-in-middle-school/

https://simplynovelteachers.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/socratic-seminar/

Ultimately, you should make a plan and set goals with your students.  Conduct some seminars and always reflect after each one. Help your students have input on went well and what could have gone better. Here is a helpful video I found where a teacher is showing what a socratic seminar looks like in her classroom, gives helpful suggestions on how to prepare students for this type of discussion, and how it can help students meet the Common Core Standards:

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/bring-socratic-seminars-to-the-classroom

Have you used the socratic seminar in your classroom? What strategies did you find helpful? I am teaching 5th and 6th grade this year, so I am looking forward to learning how to best implement this strategy with younger students.

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