Socratic Seminar for Mason Dixon Memory

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SWBAT compare Song of the Trees and Mason Dixon Memory by participating in a Socratic seminar.

Big Idea

To compare or not to compare, that is the question.

Lesson Opener

10 minutes

Connect: I will say, “In order to deepen our thinking about Mason-Dixon Memory, we are going to have a discussion with our 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 want at least two of questions to be about comparing the theme of Song of the Trees to the theme(s) of Mason-Dixon Memory.”

I will then go over the Ways to Earn and Lose Points.docx for the seminar. I will have the students write “And, But, So” at the top of their Socratic Seminar Record Sheet.docx and explain to them how to add onto a classmates’ thought.

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


Independent Practice

5 minutes

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

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


25 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 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 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 Clifton Davis crafted the theme?  How does that compare to how Mildred Taylor crafted her theme? Do you agree with ____________ being the theme of ___________? How does that compare with the theme of ____________? 

As they are discussing, I am taking notes using the Points Sheet.xlsx.

This is an example of a seminar in which we compared all three text to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the set of lessons after these ones). I neglected to tape the Mason-Dixon Memory seminar, but this clip shows what I am trying to get at with the little coaching I do and the student leadership I promote my students to have.


5 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 resource sheet in order to extend their thinking.