Socratic Seminar: Using conversation to show how to closely read a text

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SWBAT qualify or justify their own views about a subject by engaging in a Socratic Seminar over a common text.

Big Idea

Can students deepen their thinking and reading by having quality conversations with each other?

Warm Up

10 minutes

To warm up our brains, students will answer the following prompts (W.9-10.10) on their warm up sheet.  


Good Morning!

Please get out your warm up sheet and get the party started by answering this prompt:

Describe a time when you could have been a better student and received a better grade.

Explain a time when you should have been accountable for your actions?

Describe a lesson you've learned about school/education/studying, etc.  


The prompts will help focus students on today's topic: effort and attitude of high school students. Today is one of those days that our lesson serves two purposes.  It helps prep them for our final, which is a state test by reviewing elements of argumentation and nonfiction and also gives students a subliminal, "work hard on this test" motivation. 

Students use a Warm Ups sheet each week.  It helps keep track of our daily writing and thinking and helps record the students' thoughts as they evolve throughout their sophomore year.  Since we are near the end of the school year, students understand the expectation surrounding warm ups.  The expectation is to write for four-five minutes.  It takes some time to convince students that they need to meet the expectation, but typically they write for the entire time.  

Socratic Seminar

25 minutes

During yesterday's class, students read and worked with the USA Today article "For Once, Blame the Student."  Before class began, I arranged the desks in a large circle.  Typically during Socratic Seminar there is an outer circle and an inner circle.  However, today I wanted just one large circle. I chose this because I try to give students exposure to multiple types of conversations.  The expectations and standards are the same. Students come to the discussion prepared, having read and researched the text (SL.9-10.1a) and they propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes (SL.9-10.1c). It is late in the year and our climate is positive enough that they can handle one large circle. 

Students will use their questions they wrote in yesterday's lesson to propel the conversations in today's lesson. This Socratic Seminar student example video demonstrates today's Socratic Seminar. 

This lesson from earlier in the year explains the procedures of a typical, two circle Socratic Seminar.  


Socratic Seminar Reflection

10 minutes

Socratic Seminar is a great way for students to dive more deeply into the reading of a complex text. It's an instructional strategy that I use often.  However, my favorite part of the Seminar is when students complete a reflection.  Often times, students aren't given a chance to reflect on what they know. When I was a younger teacher, I often would teach right up to the end of the bell and wouldn't have an opportunity to ask students to reflect.  I've added reflection time to almost every class.  Sometimes this lasts for one-three minutes and sometimes, like today, it is a ten-fifteen minute process.  I'm not sure who gave me this Socratic Seminar Reflection document, but I owe them lunch.  It is a great assignment for students to work through after a Seminar.  It asks students to create a piece of writing (W.9-10.10) that summarizes their points of agreement and disagreement and also qualifies or justifies their own views and understandings of the text (SL.9-10.1d.).

I will give students ten minutes to work through the reflection assignment.  I will confer with students who didn't participate very much.