socratic seminar

Socratic Seminars: Wrapping it up

If you haven’t read Socratic Seminars: How to Prepare or Socratic Seminars: How to Run One, do that before you read this post! They are helpful resources for anyone interested in getting some ideas in how to increase student-driven dialogue in the classroom.

What happens when the talking stops? 

I like to call this “zipping up the backpack.” This could take the form of a formal written reflection, or it could be a class discussion. I definitely collected their graphic organizers to grade for completion in the note-taking area. I give some feedback, almost all positive, because the kids can generally get more critical of themselves with something they are uncomfortable with. Since the seminar was my summative assessment for my class, I wanted to pull from them all that I could in how the seminar affected their content and process knowledge. Like I said before, the decision to make this summative was made on the fly due to a time constraint. I do not have a solid rubric for this reflection yet—if you have any that you’d like to share, I would love to see it!

Questions to spur reflection: 

-What were the most difficult parts about this seminar? Explain.

-What surprised you about this seminar? Explain.

-How did this seminar stretch your thinking?

-Why is appropriate academic language important?

-Would you call this seminar “fun?” Why/why not?

-What are some real-world applications of Socratic Seminars? (i.e., where could you see yourself using the skill of creating questions, claims, counterclaims, and supporting them with evidence?)

-What can your teacher do to make this seminar run more smoothly next time? Explain.

-What can students do to make this seminar run more smoothly next time? Explain.

Without a doubt, my favorite thing to do is read/hear student reflections. It’s why I assign them so much. They are insightful, honest, and most of the time make me see and feel the success of what we have done together. Metacognition at its finest. I definitely encourage reflection after an activity like this because it reinforces that what we just did as a class is important and is worth our attention.

Want more resources for the Socratic Seminar? Try these:

This is a teacher from Englewood High School, part of my school’s district, who has created a video explaining how he specifically uses Avid (specifically the critical reading process) to prep for the seminar:

-Now give me some reflection! Was this helpful to you as a practitioner? Is there anything you would do differently?



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.


Engaging students through the Socratic Seminar

The Socratic Seminar is something I have yet to master, much less even try in the classroom. It takes time, patience, and lots of practice. I’ve been spending some time looking at how other educators do this in their classrooms, and found some good ideas. Since I do not specifically know my students yet, it’s hard to tell what behavioral/mental maturity they have, but my plan is to give it a go. I think probably any student can, at some level, engage in student-to-student discussion and recognize metacognition.  You just have to scaffold it. I am teaching a writing skills class that focuses on the persuasive essay, which I’ve taught before but definitely flopped. I think this is because my students did not know how to identify and make claims and support them.