"A Sound of Thunder" Socratic Seminar
Lesson 1 of 13
Objective: Students will use their analysis of the story and their own research about time travel and the butterfly effect to have an effective discussion.
To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Student Ownership
I begin the class by explicitly and clearly stating what the expectations are for the day. I am also sure to clearly provide a step-by-step description of the different sections of the day's activities. It is incredibly important to the success of the overall discussion that the guidelines and expectations are clear to each and every student. This builds capacity and confidence within them, which leads to an effective and meaningful discussion where all students learn and grow. By walking students through the process, I am also able to eliminate much of the anxiety that students may be feeling.
Once the groundwork has been laid, I ask the students to share, discuss, and revise the questions they prepared for the discussion. The students use this time to determine whether the questions are rooted in the text and/or can be answered using one or (preferably) more piece(s) of textual evidence. I ask the students to make sure the questions have three key components:
1. They do not have a simple "yes" or "no" answer
2. They require others to think.
3. They are not explicitly answered in the text already.
Additionally, I ask that students make connections between the text and other texts, themselves, or the the world around them. I had the students read through informational text articles as well, relating to time travel theories and the butterfly effect.
I conclude this portion of the lesson by assigning partnerships for the discussion. I generally do not worry too much about the pairings, but I do pay particular attention to ensuring that my quieter students, those who actively participate in class discussions or small group discussions less often, are paired with a student who will provide that extra bit of support for them and will also be a good model for what to do. I write down all of the students' names on my Seating Chart for Discussion.
To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Student Led Inquiry
Once students are partnered, I position them in one of the two circles. The students seated in the inside circle will participate in the discussion directly. The students seated in the outside circle, directly behind their partner, will be taking notes on the overall discussion as well as their partner's contributions specifically as they listen carefully and actively throughout. The students in the outside seats will use two different documents for note-taking: the "Bright Ideas" poster and the peer evaluation form.
The Bright Idea Poster, which is a space for students in the outside circle to write down thoughts, ideas, and observations they cannot otherwise share. I normally just cut large sections of butcher paper to cover my tables and put the light bulb image in the center. In a classroom where there are individual desks instead of tables, these sheets can be done on regular printer paper and be shared by the two partners and no one else.
The socratic rubric is something my Lesson Study group created together, using resources we had used in the past as a base. The tally section could also be removed if you are only looking to include the written feedback sections.
During the process where students reviewed their questions with their self-chosen partners, I was looking at some of them to determine who might have a good question to start the discussion. When it comes time for the discussion to begin, I ask for volunteers with a great question, and I typically select a student with a question I already know is solid.
Once the discussion begins, it is my job to listen carefully and take notes. I use the note-taking method used by the Jr. Great Books Shared Inquiry model with the Seating Chart. During the discussion I can take notes on what a student says, text references, questions, etc. so I am better able to provide feedback and support moving forward in the school year. It will also provide me some support in determining partnerships as needed in the future. I have found that many students have not yet developed the confidence and full ability to accurately and adequately follow-up and build upon the questions and statements of their peers, so I selectively interject my own as a model for these students. I try to stay out of the conversation for the most part, but find that selective participation helps to build capacity.
I provide the students with 15 minutes to discuss and I keep track of the time with an online timer shown on my Smart Board. When the timer goes off, the student who is speaking is able to finish his or her statement. If the student is asking a question, I choose to either let one student respond before closing the discussion round, or I use it as the starting point for the second discussion, depending on the question.
To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Self-Graded Rubric
Halftime has been such a great addition to the process for my classes. In this time, the students are able to work with their partners to reflect on what has happened so far, as well as to prepare a plan for the next half of the discussion. Students have both the "Bright Ideas" poster and the peer evaluation form to facilitate this process. The students are told they will have three minutes for this section, but I have been known to extend this time to about five as needed if a student or group of students seems anxious or intimidated. This allows them a bit more time with their partner to prepare. I also make sure to make the rounds during this time as well in order to provide feedback as well. I generally begin with the pairs that I believe may benefit the most, immediately, from my input, and then continue throughout the room.
To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Shared Expectations
Round 2 works exactly like round one. The only difference is that the partners have all switched roles and seats with one another.
Once the timer has gone off, I ask that all students complete the self-evaluation before meeting with their partner to reflect on the discussion. This provides each student with the time and means to determine for themselves areas of success and opportunities for improvement. Once this is done, the partners will get together and compare notes. They are looking for similarities and differences between what their partner said about their participation and what they recognized about themselves. On the way out the door, I collect these evaluations in order to review them as well. I compare what the students take note of to what I recognize and this helps me to continue supporting the growth and development of each individual in my class.
This discussion process, as I mentioned, is a hybrid of Socratic Seminar and Shared Inquiry. Throughout the remainder of the year, we will continue with all three types of discussion to continue building this skill. I believe that teaching students how to effectively discuss what they see, hear, and read is wonderful preparation for high school. college, and career. These students are learning how to manage and facilitate their own learning, which will hopefully facilitate a spirit of life-long learning. Knowing how and when to talk, how to effectively listen to others, as well as how to provide purposeful and meaningful feedback, will positively impact these students' learning for years to come.