Our Socratic Seminar

10 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT participate in a collegial discussion based on a nonfiction text.

Big Idea

Ready, Set, Discuss!


10 minutes

To prepare for today's lesson, I have rearranged my room so that all of the desks face in and the students can all see each other.  Also, students  have access to the Socratic Seminar Scripts, either in poster or handout form.

To begin today's lesson, I ask my students to take out the Socratic Seminar ticket we worked on yesterday.  They should have four open-ended questions written on the ticket in preparation of today's discussion.

The first think I want to do is review these questions, so they have a chance to remember what we read and to remember their ideas from the day before.

I have students look over their questions as I ask them to consider:

  • Can any of your questions be answered without reading the text?  If so, cross it out and write a question that requires a reading of our text.
  • Does the question ask for facts?  If so, rewrite it so that it moves beyond facts. 
  • Is the question a YES/NO question?  If so, rewrite, so that it is not.
  • Does the text provide enough information to answer the question?  If not, rewrite to be more connected to the text.
  • Does the question ask for personal stories that might get the group off topic? If so, write to make it more text-related.


This particular format for a Socratic Seminar is borrowed heavily from the AVID text, The Write Path English Language Arts: Exploring Texts with Strategic Reading.  AVID Press. 2012.

Getting Down to Business

25 minutes

To begin the Socratic Seminar, I have students open their books to our text, have their ticket in plain sight, and have a writing utensil out.  I have them remove everything else from their desks, so there won't be any distractions as we get going.

I remind the students of our Discussion Agreements and leave them projected on the screen for the duration of the discussion.

Next, I draw their attention to the part of the Socratic Ticket that says, "Write down other questions or ideas that come up for you during the seminar:"  I tell them that this is an area they can write down ideas as they come up.  By writing down ideas and questions, they will be able to bring them up when it's appropriate without interrupting someone else.

Before we throw out a question to kick off the seminar, I remind students that they have a responsibility to participate and to make sure others participate too.

I ask if anyone has a question they would like to use to kick off the seminar, and we're off!

As students have their discussion, I take notes on a clipboard.  I do not interject my own ideas into the discussion; I simply pause the action if a teachable moment arises and I can draw their attention to what is happening in the conversation.

Once there is a significant lull in the talking, and each student has had a chance to participate, I will announce that the discussion is now closed.

Did They Get It?

15 minutes

Once we have closed our discussion, I draw the students' attention to the back side of their Socratic Seminar Ticket.  The questions on the back allow students to reflect on their personal performance in the seminar.

This ticket can be used a number of ways:

  • You can collect it for a formative assessment.
  • Students could use it as evidence for a longer summative writing assignment.
  • They could be stored in a portfolio as evidence for a summative reflection assignment after students have completed a few Socratic Seminars.