"Tulipmania" Socratic Discussion

38 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to develop critical thinking skills by reading a passage about the history of tulips and answering types of critical thinking questions, citing evidence for their answers, and discussing answers with a small group.

Big Idea

Develop critical thinking skills through independent reading and authentic student discourse through six powerful types of questions.


10 minutes

The previous day, first hour was professionally filmed.  Today's journal asked students to reflect on that experience.  Their reflections were hilarious.  I actually snorted.


How did you feel about the camera crew filming you?  What was the best part?  What was the most awkward part?  What does fourth hour need to know about being filmed professionally?



Third Read: Integrating Knowledge and Ideas

15 minutes

We didn't quite finish the third read, so I've copied and pasted the lesson below so you don't have to click on another link.  Go ahead, say thank you. We spent about five minutes finishing the close read.


I briefly reviewed the things I had noted in the first three paragraphs, and then finished up with the fourth and fifth paragraphs.

  • Fourth Paragraph
    • Over a period of three years (1634 to 1637), the price skyrocketed.  
    • The author used 'bizarre' to refer to the tulips in the previous paragraph.  Now the author is using the word 'bi-color.'  Bizarre has negative connotations.  Weird, odd, strange.  Bi-color is more neutral. 
  • Fifth Paragraph
    • I don't like how the author doesn't say what made the market collapse.  I know what caused the stock market crash of 1929, but did the same thing happen with the tulips?  Did people just stop trading the tulips?  What made the market tulip market crash?
    • The last sentence is powerful.  "Amid the lamentations, despair, and suicides, the modest tulip continued to beautify the Dutch countryside."  The first independent clause in the sentence has negative connotations--lamentations, despair, suicides (did people really kill themselves over tulips?  or over losing money?).  The second part of the sentence, the independent clause, has positive connotations.  But modest?  That's personification, yo.  Tulips can't be modest. 
    • There's no restated thesis statement.  It's like the author wants the reader to figure out the main ideas themselves.  Bah!


After my reading and modeling was done (finally!) I asked students to do their third quickwrite.  Did I mention indenting? And capitalizing? And punctuation? 'Cause y'all should use those things!

Here's the third quickwrite prompt:


After the quickwrite, I asked two students from each group to rotate to new groups. Rotate! Rotate! Rotate! The new groups read their quickwrites.  They wrote one question per group, that, again, they don't know the answer to, should be on a test, should be on a set of questions, or something similar.

Setting up the Dialogic Discussion

15 minutes

I took the questions students wrote on the sticky notes and compiled a list of discussion questions.  I was able to type up the questions from the first and second quickwrites after school, but I had to wait for the third quickwrite questions and type them up incredibly quickly.  Look at me go--vroom!


I had the students create an inner circle and an outer horseshoe.  That took way longer than I thought it would.  Moving desks around can be difficult for seventh graders. 


I divided the class in thirds, so each group would be a part of the inner circle once.  There were three groups because of three quickwrites.  The first group was responsible for discussing the questions generated from the first quickwrite, the second group was responsible for discussing the questions generated from the second quickwrite, and the third group?  What are the responsible for?  Questions from the third quickwrite.


I reminded students that they questions that they would be discussing came from them, not me.  The inner circle was in control of the discussion.  They could choose which question to start with, when they were done, and when to go on.  It was their discussion.


I reminded the outer circle--horseshoe--that they needed to listen to the discussion.  As they were listening, they should fill out a T-chart.  On the left side, they should record what they learned from the discussion.  On the right side, they should record how people were behaving, both inner circle and outer horseshoe people.  Were people giving each other homecourt advantage? How?  What made the discussion go well?  What went wrong?





The Dialogic Discussion

45 minutes

I called the first group up and reminded students that the empty desk was the hot seat. Each group was given eight to ten minutes to talk.  


The first group was awkward.  When I asked the students how they felt about the discussion (thumbs up, sideways, and down), the students that had their thumbs down were primarily in the first group.  One student said it was awkward because they didn't know how it would go.


Check out excerpts from the  Quickwrite #1 Discussion here.








The second group we added a very special role for the inner circle--the evidence police.  That person was responsible for asking the members of the group what their evidence was.  I did some prompting of this student (by tugging on her sweatshirt), but it laid a foundation for the third group.  I forgot to establish that role for the first group.  Duh.


Check out excerpts from Quickwrite #2 Discussion here.









The third group actually begged for more time.  I stopped them about eight minutes before the bell rang so we would have time to put the room back in order, and they practically yelled, "We still have five minutes!"  It was beautiful.


Check out excerpts from Quickwrite #3 Discussion here.









I didn't do much during this discussion. I did a bit of prompting, and for a true Socratic seminar, I probably did too much. You can also see a bit of redirecting in at least one the videos.  At one point, I made two students move away from each other because they weren't responding to reminders to stop talking in the outer circle.


By the end, I was so proud I was tearing up.  And not fake tearing up like the students are used to me doing.  They were real tears forming.  They done good.


5 minutes

I hate closure.  Have I mentioned that?   


I asked students to move their desks back in the usual arrangement of pods.  Once they were back in their groups, I told them how proud I was of them.  Real tears, dude. Real tears


I asked them how they felt about the discussion.  Thumbs up if they felt it was successful and they learned lots, thumbs sideways if they felt that it was okay and they learned some, and thumbs down if they felt it was horrible.  Like I said earlier, most of the students with thumbs down were from the first discussion group.  The other groups were much more positive.

Lesson Resources

Thanks to Christine Majul for today's lesson background. It's a photo of the inside of a tulip, which is excellent since today's discussion required us to delve deeply. . . inside the tulip.