Socratic Seminar: Poetry

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SWBAT participate in a whole-class discussion, having prepared by reading and taking notes on a text.

Big Idea

Time to talk about poetry!

Word Roots Warm-Up

15 minutes

Today, students will be taking a word-roots quiz.  This is a self-graded, formative meant to help students gauge where they are in memorizing these word parts. 

I give students a quarter-sheet of paper and instruct them to simply write the letter of the answers.  Once everyone is done, we go over the answers. 

The culminating piece of this assignment is the reflection that students will write on their Cornell Notes.  I'm not concerned with their quiz results as much as I want to see that they're reflecting on their learning.

Once they have reflected in the summary section of the notes, I collect the notes for a summative grade.  I am sure to return the notes to them within a day or two, so they are able to study for the upcoming test.

I have made time for the test in a future lesson.  In my world there are usually about 2-3 days between this particular lesson and the test day.  Each day I encourage students to make and work with flashcards or have friends and family test them.


10 minutes

As we prepare to begin our Socratic Seminar, I take a few minutes to review the Socratic Seminar Scripts handout.  I remind students that they can use the sentence starters on the handout as a way to begin their comments during the discussion. 

I make sure students understand that the expectation is they will contribute to the discussion at least three times, whether that is with a question, a reference to the text, or a comment that helps keep the conversation going.

A good way to give everyone a chance to talk is to have students read the scripts aloud, one by one, going around the circle.  That way, everyone can try their voice out by reading and not be too embarrassed to speak up during the discussion.

I also have students put their tickets, question side up, on the desks, so I can quickly walk around the circle and make sure that everyone is prepared.  If there is a student who has not prepared for the discussion, I invite them to take a seat outside the circle.  They will listen and take notes on the discussion, but they cannot participate.

Getting Down to Business

20 minutes

This is, by far, the most difficult part for me: sitting back and letting the students have their own discussion about the shared text (in this case an excerpt from Whitman's Song of Myself).

As students participate in the discussion, I keep a class roster on a clipboard and make notations about their contributions. As you can see from the picture, I use symbols to note what is happening in the discussion.  The key is as follows:

  • Check mark: a comment that helps keep the conversation going.
  • R: references the text
  • ?: asks a question


Any of those marks with a star next to it, denotes that the student did this particularly well.

I convert the symbols into a grade using the following guidelines:

  • 100%: At least three comments/questions, all with stars
  • 90%: At least three comments/ questions, two with stars
  • 80%: At least three comments/questions, one with a star
  • 70% At least three comments/questions, no stars
  • 65%: Two comments/questions, but one has a star
  • 60%: Two comments/questions, no stars
  • 55%: One comment with a star.
  • 50%: One comment without a star.
  • I give a 0 to students who did not participate.


Once the conversation has run its course, or it's about 5 minutes before the end of class, I thank the students for their hard work and participation.


Did They Get It?

5 minutes

When the discussion is over, I have students complete their Socratic Seminar Ticket.  This is what they will turn in for a summative grade.  I weight the ticket as much as the actual conversation.