Socratic Seminars: How to Run One

If you have not read Socratic Seminars: How to Prepare–do it! It’s a precursor to this one.

So now that you have prepared your students for the S.S., what do you do? Get your hands dirty!

How to Run a Socratic Seminar

1. Talk about language. I used the Appropriate Language Handout from the Teaching Channel, and it accompanied students during the seminar.

2. Assume the Position.

Socratic Seminar Setup

No, that is not me, but I do like to point at things/people while I’m teaching. 



Socratic Seminars: How to Prepare

I posted last year about Socratic Seminars and how I was planning on using them in my classroom. Needless to say, I was apprehensive in doing this because of its somewhat complicated structure and my always-denied but apparent perfectionism and my struggle to avoid it. However, I attended an in-house Avid training by one of our district’s teachers about what the seminar is and how to use it, and I felt pretty comfortable trying it out.

This post is going to be a how-to on how to prepare yourself and your students for a Socratic Seminar! Woo!

Prepare yourself:

1. Decide your end-goal for the S.S. Is it a reflection? Project? In my case, the summative assessment was the actual Socratic Seminar due to time constraints. Students had to demonstrate their learning via participation, the notes they took, and the reflections they wrote. This came out of the graphic organizer that I modified from the Teaching Channel link below.


The Joys and Sorrows of “Winging It”

I had about a week and a half to move to Cincinnati and start teaching grades 7-12 (and a Creative Writing class) when I snagged my job last August. A week and a half to mentally prepare and get my classroom in order (which was easily a week-long endeavor) and plan curriculum for my classes. I had no time to properly unearth materials from English teachers past (apparently I was the third one in three years), no time to understand the students I am responsible for, and no time to thoroughly lesson plan. Not for six preps. Six! For those of you not in the education sector, the average teacher has 2.5-3 preps. However, I have only a fraction of the students in an average school, so I guess it evens out. Or it’s supposed to even out.


Taking a “Spring” Break

This doesn’t have much to do with education, but I think it’s relevant.

I am on spring break, which has simply consisted of me waking up, making breakfast, drinking coffee, watching 30 Rock, Grey’s Anatomy, and going to Pure Barre every day.

What is Pure Barre? It’s the reason why I’ve been sitting on my butt every day before and after I go. It kicks your butt, arms, thighs, abs, calves, shoulders—-everything. I am exhausted and it’s all I’ve been doing. It’s a ballet/pilates/yoga workout that uses small movements, minimal weight, and is low-impact. Since I haven’t been able to run recently because of knee pain, this is about the only workout that hasn’t hurt my knees but is rigorous enough to challenge me.


Clear to Neutral

I read somewhere that to be ready to teach every day, you have to practice
“Clear to Neutral.”

The practice of “Clear to Neutral” relates to procrastination and disorganization. If you leave a kitchen messy the day you plan to make a large dinner, it takes more time to clean it up and get ready to make a quality meal. You could cook in a messy kitchen, but then you risk contamination, you can’t find counter space, you get stressed out because everything’s dirty and you have to keep rewashing the same spatula. You clear your kitchen to neutral (i.e., restore it to its normal state) before any good productivity can happen.

More extrapolation on this here.

Once I read this, I began paying attention to the small things—my binder storage area in the classroom was a wreck, I had no system for my kids to get notebook paper, I hadn’t vacuumed my carpet in about a week, and it just looked straight up messy up in room 102.

There is, as well as physical neutrality, mental neutrality. These are the menial tasks: grading, grade entering into Progressbook, taking care of myself, packing my lunch the night before, making sure I get in bed at a decent hour, putting effort into how I dress for school. I don’t enjoy doing these things, so I tend to put them off. Really, it just builds up and affects my work performance. If I’m not prepared for class or not “there” that day, my energy is shot and therefore the class period is a waste.

I have been attempting “Clear to Neutral” for the past few weeks, and it’s paying off. My planning has been a lot more focused, my attitude has been better, I feel more prepared, I have more energy, and my general overall feeling about teaching has improved. I’m able to get to that deeper level of reflection when I have more time for it; as a first year teacher, reflection is crucial. The more I get to reflect, the more I learn about myself and my practice.


Celebrating the Good

With a lot of the press covering education and the crisis we’re in these days, it makes me wonder—where are the teachers in all this?

The politicians, the “school reformers” lobbying for whatever agenda they stand for at the state and federal level, the business leaders, the media—-THEY all feel inspired to spew their sometimes worthless thoughts into cyberspace, but who really cares? They’re not teachers. To a lot of people, this doesn’t matter. Anyone with power is going to be heard, regardless of actual experience they have in the day-to-day of a classroom, witnessing the problems of education in the United States. And yet, somebody thinks it’s a good idea to let these people dictate the public opinion of how teachers should do their jobs.


15 Helpful Tips For Those Who Want to go Into Teaching

Now that I’m halfway through my first year of teaching, I’ve reflected on how my very limited amount of wisdom could help those who are thinking of becoming teachers or already becoming teachers. As always, take these with a grain of salt and share them with others you know who are contemplating the teacher biz.

1. Recognize that you don’t go into teaching for the money.

2. Recognize that you do go into teaching for the psychological income (i.e., the gratification that comes from helping people) and that your paycheck is rarely ever on time.

3. If you are in a preparatory program, save everything. Sample lesson plans, books, notes—save it all. If you happen to have time during your first year of teaching to look at it, it has the potential of being very helpful.

4. Make a list of things you will not compromise in your career. Keep it and refer to it often.


Geoffrey Canada at Miami

This is Geoffrey Canada, founder and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone in NYC. The organization has helped and is helping many children in Harlem rise above their circumstantial poverty and finish high school and even college. You may have seen him in Waiting For “Superman,” a documentary that shows how charter schools are what many communities are resorting to so their children can have a “quality” education (whatever that is.)