Socratic Seminar about Song of the Trees

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SWBAT discuss Song of the Trees in order to have a deeper understanding of theme and author's craft.

Big Idea

Let's have a talk.

Lesson Opener

5 minutes

Connect: I will say, “In order to deepen our thinking about Song of the Trees, we are going to have a discussion with your classmates

Teach: I will say, “In order to show a deeper understanding of the text, I am going to practice the skill discussing the text with my classmates and the strategy using high level questions. The process I will use is as follows:

1)      Read over the questions I have been asking of the text

2)      Pick my top three questions

3)      Revise any if needed

4)      Come prepared with questions and the text to the seminar

I want the seminar to be truly student led and don’t want to give them any questions right off the bat. I will say to them, “I want you to pick the best questions you have asked of your text in order to bring them to the discussion. I want you to think through your level of questioning and concentrate on brining level 3 and level 4 questions of the text.”

I will then go over ways to earn and lose points for the seminar. I will introduce how students will take notes using the Socratic Seminar Record Sheet in the outer circle. I will have the students write “And, But, So” at the top of their papers and explain to them how to add onto a classmates’ thought.

Shout out to teacher Brian Reardon who passed along these materials to me! 

Active Engagement

5 minutes

Active Engagement: : I will say, “Read over your questions and  turn and tell your partner one idea you have so far. I will check for understanding listening to every level of learner (at least 3 students-one who is at standard, one is approaching standard, and one who is above standard).

Closing of Active Engagement: Remember, great readers show a deeper understanding of the text, by practicing the skill of discussing the text by using the strategy of asking high level questions. They read questions they have been asking of the text, pick their top three question, revise any if needed and come prepared with questions and the text in order to have a successful discussion.

Independent Practice

5 minutes

Independent Practice: Students will jot down their questions in their writers notebook while looking at the Depths of Knowledge Chart.


20 minutes

Seminar: I will project on the screen the two teams. I will decide who will be on the teams based on the most vocal people in the class (I don’t want them all on one team!). I will decide who will be in the inner and outer circle first based on who was in the inner circle first last time. Since this is my students first time at it, I am going to randomly pick the inner circle first.

As the students in the inner circle are discussing, I will fill out the first question and comments on the record sheets for the outer circle so that they have an example. Then they will be told they have to complete the rest on their own. I will also take notes of students participation using the Points Sheet. 

I am only chiming into the discussion if I feel it is going off track or will have questions about theme and author’s craft ready if students are not getting there on their own. Possible questions are: Do you agree with how Mildred Taylor crafted the theme? Do you agree with ____________ being the theme of the story? Why? From Mr.Anderson’s perspective, what is the theme of the story?

Here is an example of discussion.


10 minutes

I believe that the end of the lesson should be an assessment of the days’ learning; therefore it should be independent work. I always end class with an “exit ticket” in which students write down the response to a question.

Closing: Students will fill out the reflection on the back of the seminar sheet. I will have them refer to the Thought Prompts to Push your Thinking Resource Sheet.docx in order to extend their thinking.