I've taught scholars what the socratic seminar is in previous lessons during the independent practice small groups, but today we begin preparing for a whole-class socratic seminar.
We begin preparing for the socratic seminar with concrete practice of the targeted reading skill so that it is easier for scholars as they apply the skill to text. I start by showing a video about volcanoes to help build background knowledge for my ELL scholars and to practice the reading skill of using context to help define key vocabulary.
I tell scholars that as they watch the video, jot down what the topic is and the important words that they hear. I remind them that we are going to discuss WHAT the important words are and what they MEAN.
I give scholars 1 minute to write down what they think the important words mean. Then, I have them turn and rally robin (take turns sharing back and forth) the important words with a friend. I take 3 friends from my cup to share an important word and what it means. Then, I take 2 volunteers. Here is a sample of an important word T-chart. You'll notice that only words are written, not definitions. This was a signal to me that they did not have enough time to write the word and the meaning. I actually showed the video three times after seeing that students did not have enough time to both identify important words and write what they meant.
I guide scholars to think about what the words mean by using the context of the video. I also remind them that important words help you to better understand the topic. They tell you something distinct about the topic without which could change some of the major ideas within the video. This will foreshadow our objective tomorrow on main idea.
This is day 1 of a socratic seminar on the text Volcanoes by Seymour Simon (this is a text in the Common Core Appendix B for 5th grade). In the first read, I read part of the text out loud to scholars (to make sure that all scholars have access to the text). I pause every few words to have scholars read the word paused upon out loud. This increases engagement and allows me to ensure that ALL scholars are following along as we read.
As we read, I pause to highlight key vocabulary. I bought some cheap tag boards (tag board outside) from Really Good Stuff. You can completely make your own or just use three different colors of post-it notes.
As I model, I use a red sticky note to indicate words that I don't know but that I think are important, orange sticky note to indicate a word I know in context and a yellow sticky note to indicate a word that I know and it is important. Check out the tag board inside. I think aloud about how to do this so that scholars can learn from hearing a strong reader construct meaning. For example, I might pause when I read the word magma. I might say, "Hmm, this word seems important because magma comes out of volcanoes. I am not sure what it means, but I think I can read to find out the definition. I'm going to mark it orange." Scholars love using the tag boards or sticky notes because it gives them something to do with their hands. They love using something different to indicate important words. This is helpful for tactile and visual learners.
Then, I model how to record my answers on the vocabulary graphic organizer. I might say, As I continue reading, I see that right here in the text it says that magma is the liquid form of lava. It is the red, hot liquid stuff that spurts from a volcano. I am going to record that on my vocabulary graphic organizer." Scholars will do this at the end of the read. Then, they place sticky notes back in their pouches so that we can re-use them.
During the guided practice, scholars split into heterogeneous partnerships. Above grade level readers read with grade level readers, grade level readers read with below grade level readers. I do not pair above with below as that can be very frustrating for both scholars. Scholars are able to get up and move to a comfy place in the classroom so that they can stretch a bit and change scenery. This enhances engagement and can inspire creativity.
Each reading partnership completes reading the text and continues to mark words with colored post-it notes depending on if they know the important word (yellow), know it in context (orange), or don't know it at all but think it is important (red). Here is an example of one scholar tagging words. I pull a small group of my ELL scholars to read aloud to so that they can access the text. I also need to more explicitly model how to use context to determine the meaning of unknown words. I build background knowledge during this time as needed.
This time is the actual seminar. Since this is the first time that we've done the seminar, we spend about 5 minutes practicing how to arrange our desks. There are two circles (one inside of another larger circle). Scholars who are participating in the discussion are in the inner circle. Scholars who are watching/listening and evaluating the discussion sit on the outside of the circle. They use the Rating Scale for Socratic Seminar to evaluate their peers.
Scholars in the inner circle discuss the following questions:
1. What are some of the important words you found? Why are they important?
2. What words did you find interesting?
3. What are some words that you did NOT know?
4. Questions? Observations?
*We watched a video on the socratic seminar and discussed norms last week during our writing lesson.
Scholars in the outer circle give an individual rating to their partner (person sitting directly across from them) and an overall rating for the group. The rating is a simple fist to five. Five indicating everyone participates, discussion remains on topic, participants respectfully agree/disagree, discussion is interesting,and participants remain attentive.
We will do two discussions each lasting 10 minutes so that each group of scholars have an opportunity to discuss. As scholars discuss, they can continue to take notes on their vocabulary sheet. This is a part of their checklist for the week.