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.
A Moral Reasoning Conversation is a student grouping and discourse strategy that involves heterogeneous groups of 4-5 students holding table discussions about their responses to provocative questions that frame, go deeper with, or reflect on the day's lesson. This is an especially effective strategy to use when we are engaging with complex themes in the literature we are reading as a class. The purpose of Moral Reasoning Conversations is for my students to prepare the thoughts that they will introduce in a subsequent whole-class discussion or a more formal Socratic Seminar. The students are given a situation that asks them to use their individual moral compasses to determine how they would behave in a complex ethical context. They discuss these moral dilemmas with peers in their table groups. At key moments during the discussion, I introduce "wrenches" that add layers of complexity to the dilemmas and push students towards deeper critical thinking and consideration of multiple perspectives. I consider carefully how much detail to present regarding each initial moral dilemma, so that my students have the opportunity to develop their own "wrenches" for the Moral Reasoning Conversation.
Film Framing uses animated films students often remember from childhood as a jumping-off point for approaching the serious and often emotionally tough conversations that we will be having later in the class period about the novel we are studying. Given their visual appeal and simple storylines, these films are one way to support my students as they grapple with complex questions and apply literary theories and devices. Part of the analysis process for my students is tracking their observations throughout each clip and using those notes during the class discussion that follows the viewing. The understanding they gain through the film discussion on how to answer these complex questions and apply multiple lenses is then applied to our class novel. An additional benefit of Film Framing is that my students become more critical consumers of media in general.
Socratic Seminars can be amazing learning experiences for students when they take the time to prepare what they will contribute to the conversation. Once the seminar prompt has been clarified, each student gets ready by reviewing their Annotation Logs to identify what evidence and analysis addresses the prompt. This preparation often takes 15 minutes, and during that time students use a graphic organizer to develop the key points they want to contribute. Regardless of how many Socratic Seminars we may have already done in the class, we always review the norms to ensure that the time we spend in dialogue is useful and inclusive.