Socratic Seminars are one method for discussing complex texts, and they are also useful forums where students can metacognate about their learning process and even share best practices.
I would describe my classroom as a mix of a flex and a face-to-face instructional model. During our block periods, my students transition frequently among different learning modalities, including online self-paced learning, collaborative small group learning, and whole class instruction. They use online tools to become stronger readers, to conduct research, to connect with communities beyond our classroom, and to engage civically through blogging, virtual discussions, and community-focused projects. Ideally through consistent student-to-student collaboration, my project-based classroom allows students to see the importance of social justice and how it is infused in the literature content they engage with on a regular basis. Co-teaching and authentic project-based learning are key elements of my model.
Number of Students: ~15-25 students
Number of Adults: one teacher; one student teacher
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 92 minutes (M, T, Th, F); 35 minutes (W)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Google Drive; Google Apps for Education; Gooru Learning; Adobe Photoshop; Newsela; Piktochart Infographic Creator; iMovie; iPhoto; Audible; Quizlet; Jupiter Ed; Google Hangouts
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: mobile cart with 34 Chromebooks (1:1)
Key Features: project-based; innovative use of time; student agency
One thing students can always count on in our Socratic seminars is that they will be recorded. Preparing for the Socratic Seminar involves watching film footage of the previous seminar discussion. Students can participate more effectively if we acknowledge what they are doing right, and they buy in more deeply to the idea of using evidence to back their claims when I do the same during this preparation process. In this case, I use evidence in the form of recorded footage to demonstrate their success with some key aspects of a quality academic discussion.For this strategy, the purpose is twofold. First, though I do not re-play each and every single video, I do feel that there is value in capturing student talk that can be made available for those students who can benefit from listening to their peers. This is why I upload and share the videos to all of the students. I have often used recordings of classroom discussion to inform how I will revise the same unit for the following year.The second purpose of this strategy is so that I can script verbatim the exchanges between the students that happen in the seminar. I then provide the students this script, and they can see what we call their “isms”. For example, a student might notice that they say the word “like” or “ya know what I’m sayin’” repeatedly in the seminar. These “isms” affect how people listening to them might respond, and by capturing them on paper, it gives the students evidence of what they will want to work on in terms of the way they orally present themselves. The scripts are also a useful resource for when students are constructing analysis through writing because they or their peers might have cited a strong quote or made a critical connection on which students can build their own analysis.
While I often use a Google Form survey or an opening conversation to start class and set the tone, there is also tremendous value in having students write their individual thoughts in their Writer's Notebooks. Ours is a mostly paperless classroom despite the fact that it is an English class, so these pen-to-paper moments are significant ones. Students understand that these journal entries are silent reflections meant to put them in the frame of mind needed for the day's lessons.