Comparing Characters and Themes in a Socratic Circle

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Students will be able to compare and analyze themes from two stories by participating in a coached Socratic circle.

Big Idea

Socratic circles allow students to engage in authentic literary discussions.

Daily Grammar

15 minutes

As we worked through the bellwork this week, we labeled the corrections with the letter of the correction (see the Watch For box).  I told students that eventually they would need to label the corrections on a test, but this week was just practice, so they didn't need to.  Today was test day, though, and a fair number of them did indeed label them.  They were quite worried about the difference between a clause and a phrase. Put simply, a clause has a subject and verb, but a phrase doesn't. We're going to start working heavily on identifying subjects and verbs in the coming weeks.  

Socratic Circle: Comparing Characters and Themes in "Midnight" and "Monsters"

30 minutes

Today students participated in a coaching Socratic circle in order to discuss the themes and characters of "Monsters" and "Midnight."  For this circle, we did an inner and outer circle with the same number of students in the inner and outer circle. Both students would be a part of the inner and outer circle and then switch.

In a coaching circle, one student from the inner circle and one student from the outer circle team up and work together. I used our trusty clock appointments to divide students up into the inner and outer circles.  The first student's name became the inner circle and the second student's name became the outer circle. I gave students five minutes to discuss the questions and make notes about points they wanted to promote. They wrote questions and comments to help them remember. To hear me explain the coached circle style, watch this video.

I reminded students how the Parking, Pruning, and Promoting idea works.  An idea that needs to be discussed gets written in the promoting column.  If a line of discussion keeps going around and around and not getting anywhere, it either be parked or pruned.  Parked means that we may come back to it and prune means that we're cutting that part off. Students stayed on topic and we didn't need the concept of pruning at all.

We had two discussion topics for today.  Both topics compared "Midnight" and "Monsters." I let the first inner circle choose which one they started with, and they chose characters (B) with a simple majority vote.

Here's how the time worked out.

  • 2 minutes to talk about characters with their coach
  • 5 minutes for the inner circle to discuss characters
  • 2 minutes to talk about characters with coach and switch from inner to outer circle
  • 5 minutes for the new inner circle to talk about characters
  • 2 minutes to talk about coach about theme
  • 5 minutes for new inner circle to talk about theme
  • 2 minutes to talk to coach about theme and switch places
  • 5 minutes for the original inner circle to talk about theme

Watch this time-lapsed Socratic Circle video to see the students in the circle.

They got to the root of the theme of both stories--we fear what we don't understand and what we do with that fear can ruin us. They got there on their own, and went even further. With the Socratic circle, all I had to do was "sit back and watch."

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