Reflection: Rigor Socratic Seminar: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2 days) - Section 2: Socratic Seminar


I was excited that the Socratic seminars did last most of each period, with the student conversations actually building to a more natural discussion in the second half.  It was particularly interesting that the majority of conversation was about the individual people the author meets, the relationships she has with them, and her role in the whole experiment.  I had to prompt them to consider the economic ramifications of the book, the inequalities the author brings up, etc.  People love narratives and characters, so it makes sense they would be drawn to the narrative elements, and the fact that I asked them to look specifically at the author’s rhetorical strategies would naturally lead them to consider her role.  I also think that economics is not something they are as familiar with, so those parts of the story were less accessible in any deep sort of way.  One thing a student said at the end of the second day when the outside students were sharing their observations was particularly astute:  she noted that most of the students were being more critical of writer, noting places where the rhetoric may not have been effective, or when they questioned her motives (for example, one page where she goes to a church and has some negative commentary about religious organizations), than I was.  She said I generally was looking at the positives of the writing.  I asked why she thought that happened, and she said (and others chimed in), that in trying to be “right” and move the conversation, she tends to go that direction.  I continued to challenge this idea by asking more questions about whether being critical necessarily builds a more compelling academic conversation than noting strategies and connections to the outside world—the students seemed to have a bit of an epiphany about discourse, that noting strategies in a positive way, and how these build a central ideas and connect to outside issues, is more sophisticated than criticizing.  

Attached are some of the reading logs students handed in as examples.  I've done these for every book we've read this year--there is some very thoughtful discourse here, and I also get a sense of whether some kids kind of rushed through the text.  Generally, I've found these to be a valuable way of students doing reader response and attending to rhetorical aspects of a longer text, pushing them to at least closely read parts of it in order to thoroughly do the logs.

  Rigor: Sustained Discourse
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Socratic Seminar: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2 days)

Unit 10: Deepening Rhetorical Analysis
Lesson 8 of 10

Objective: SWBAT propel conversations by posing and responding to questions and comments from peers by participating in a Socratic seminar.

Big Idea: Socratic seminars are wonderful for learning what students know and how engaged they are in a book or topic.

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