Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Socratic Seminar

A few weeks ago, a pair of colleagues asked me to assist them with one of their seventh grade classes.  This particular class has a large number of long-term English language learners and both educators are fairly new to the profession. Since this class is completing a mini-unit on economic inequality, one of my suggested modifications was to use leveled text from Newsela.  After planning the initial part of the lesson, we decided to go a step further and have the students engage in a Socratic seminar.

A Socratic seminar is a discussion around a piece of text.  While in some cases there is one leader asking the questions, we modified this piece a bit.  After the students read and annotated the news article, they wrote a discussion question. This meant that during our Socratic seminar, multiple students took on the role of the leader, while their classmates actively participated.  Not only did this activity give students the opportunity to see the material in a new light, it provided some much needed speaking practice.  During the following lesson we connected the new material to the information covered during the Socratic seminar and immediately received student buy-in for that lesson.

There are multiple ways to implement a Socratic seminar in your classroom.  Check out the video below for more information.

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