To begin our day, I tell students to get out the article from yesterday's lesson and I distribute SocraticSeminar Instruction for students. I'm not sure where I picked up this instruction guide, but whomever the teacher is who created it, is great. Page two of the instructional guide offers specific questions for To Kill A Mockingbird. I kept it in the packet because the questions can be revised to prep students for other texts. I read the sheet aloud to students and explain the process of Socratic Seminar. Since they received the article yesterday, it should be annotated and ready to go. I tell them they have seven minutes to complete their questions which will allow them to come to the discussions prepared and to draw evidence from the text to support their argument (SL.9-10.1a).
I chose to conduct a Socratic Seminar this early in the year because I want students to get used to collaborative discussions (SL.9-10.1). We will use Socratic Seminar, or a variation of it, frequently. I don't expect the Seminar to go extraordinarily well this early in the semester. Many times students are shy and are hesitant to share their thinking with their peers. Part of preparing for Seminar is including many opportunities for students to build a classroom culture of respect and sharing.
When they are finished, I explain the norms for Socratic Seminar and write them on the wall:
Students will come to Socratic Seminar prepared including annotations and questions (SL.9-10.1a)
Students will be seated in either the inner circle or the outer circle. The inner circle is the only group that can speak. Outer circle will take notes and listen carefully (SL.9-10.1b)
Students in the inner circle will ask questions to clarify verify or challenge ideas (SL.9-10.1c).
Students will respond thoughtfully to their peers' perspectives (SL.9-10.1d) by arguing the topic, not the person.
I also show students this Socratic Seminar Example film. It is over a different topic, but will give students an idea what SS is going to look like.
The classroom desks are arranged in an outer circle and an inner circle so that students can move between the two circles. Once I have students divided into two groups, they sit in their chairs and Seminar begins. Later in the semester, I will do very little to get them going. But today, I will give them the opening question: What issues or problems might arise if school began at 7am instead of 8am?
Once I give the opening question, I let the students take over. I switch the inner and outer circles approximately every four-five minutes. This is a good transition time for their first Seminar.
Once the Seminar is over I distribute the Socratic Seminar Reflection and allow students time to complete the reflection. This Why the Socratic Seminar reflection is so important video explains why the reflection is crucial in the Socratic Seminar. As students work on their reflection, I will walk around and urge them to write as much as they can. I want them to understand how important the reflection is to the Seminar.