Finding Meaning In The Structure of "Street Music": A Socratic Seminar

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SWBAT hold discussions with peers to determine the meaning behind the structure of a poem.

Big Idea

It has been said that figuring out why a poet chose a certain structure may be too hard for you. Let's put our heads together and prove them wrong!


In previous lessons, I referred to this as fishbowl, but it is essentially the same thing. My kids asked for more of these opportunities, so I've decided to make it a more regular part of our routine and give it the grown up name. Here is a great website to explain the use and power of these experiences. I also like this video to help the kids see the expectations. I like to have the students use this tool so they can do some peer and self evaluation of the Socratic seminar. There is a checklist for the partners on the outside of the circle and reflection questions for when the seminar is over. 

I love these opportunities for my students to truly take control of my classroom. I try to make my instruction as student centered as possible, but when students aren't used to this freedom, it definitely takes to some time to get the kids to those expectations. I slowly release control throughout the year, and these reading discussions are something that my kids beg for. In reading it can be hard to find opportunities for instruction to be student centered and let them engage in problem solving opportunities. These discussions allow me to give the students a text, pose a real problem and allow the students to solve it together in their circle. 

Today they'll read a new text and try to figure out why the author structured a poem in a certain way. In this way, I can pull in reading skills, problem solving, collaboration, and other higher level thinking skills. Pair that with being pretty free from the teacher, and these kids have an amazing time!


10 minutes

So, we've been talking about the structure of poems and that authors usually have a purpose for using a structure. Well today I'm stuck. I read this poem called "Street Music." Jack read it in "Love That Dog" and he loved it. I just can't figure it out. The structure is free verse, but the poet does some weird things with the words. He keeps stretching some out across the page and makes stanzas in odd places. I need some help. Today I'd like you to read the poem and annotate your thoughts. Then we'll get into a Socratic Seminar to see if we can solve this problem. Before we start though, I'd like to review the expectations for Socratic Seminar. 

At this point, I'll show the students the video and the assessment tool. I'll also ask a student to model using the tool since this part is new. I've always let the students just use a sheet of white paper to monitor their partners, but I love the new checklist that is already created for them. I think it holds them more accountable. This picture is great to post on the SMART board, document projector or to print out to keep your expectations visible. 

Close Reading

15 minutes

It's time to set the kids free to read through "Street Music." During this time, I just move around and monitor the students. I don't guide their thinking at all because they need to understand the importance of coming to seminar prepare with their own thoughts. You can see here what I look for as  they're working. This poem isn't too difficult either, so I feel confident that they can pull something out of this while annotating. Not every student will arrive at the conclusions about the poem's structure on their own. That's okay. Through seminar, they will be able to see things through their peer's eyes and hopefully be more motivated to dig into the poem some more or dig deeper the next time. I think back to when I read a book and I was discussing it with someone. They noticed something I completely missed, so I went back and reread the book. Providing these opportunities for thier natural curiosity to kick in is priceless. 

 As you read today, I'd like you to write down anything you're thinking about the poem. If possible, pay close attention to the structure of the poem. Why did the author make some of the choices he did? Remember that there is no right or wrong answer here. We're just making inferences or educated guesses about why the author would make these choices. This is higher level thinking and helps us become better readers. We're growing dendrites today!

Socratic Seminar

20 minutes

In the Socratic Seminar, I just let the kids run the discussion. I usually post the first question and then let the kids determine where the conversation goes. 

In "Street Music" the author uses a specific structure to relay his meaning. Why did the author stretch the words out as he did? What else do you notice? 

Here you can see a student totally get the idea I was hoping they would find. I've also included more of the seminar, so you could see how the kids are learning to become more apart of the discussion. 

After the initial question, I try not to intervene too much. I like to see where they take the discussion, what they get out of the poem, etc. This isn't a time for me to tell them if they're right or wrong; it's about them finding and clarifying meaning in what they read by discussing texts with their peers. I look forward to these days more than anything. 

Not only does this hit the literature standard, it also hits those speaking and listening standards. They have to speak, be a part of a full discussion, learn how to include others, and listen to each other. It's amazing to watch the students build these skills each time. 

After the students have switched roles, (I usually give 10 minutes at most for each circle), we reflect on the seminar. Students pair up with their partner and discuss the assessment tool that they used. This really helps the students see where they are in terms of being a part of a discussion. It also holds them accountable for the experience.