May 21

Setting the Stage for Socratic Seminar

“It felt weird at first, but once I started talking, it was fun to give my input. At first it was awkward, but it made me feel like I wasn’t in school, it was like I was having a normal conversation with someone.” So reflected Katelyn, a student in Ashley Walker’s 9th grade English class, after participating in her first Socratic Seminar. Other reflections included one by Mar-yahna, “It felt good because usually I don’t interact in this class but it went very well and i would like to continue this for the rest of the year”,  and A’mari, “I think the best thing about today’s seminar was hearing the other perspectives of my classmates and it opening my mind to things I didn’t think about when I read this story alone.”

Mrs. Walker, 4 fellow teachers, and I attended the one-day Socratic Seminar International Workshop in Richmond, Virginia, held in February, 2014. In an afternoon faculty meeting, we presented the gist of what we had  learned, and the teachers who attended the workshop and some others began preparing their students for participation in Socratic Seminar. Mrs. Walker began preparing her students by teaching them the difference between Dialogue and Debate.

Further preparing her students, Mrs. Walker created a Power Point, introducing the tenets of Socratic Seminar. She also gave her students a Socratic Seminar Brochure of  facts, rules, question stems, and habits of mind.

Starting small was recommended, which is exactly what Mrs. Walker did. See the video clip below of students in her 9th grade honors English class as one makes connections between their common-study novel Witness with the musical Hairspray:


Stay tuned for a culminating seminar on the book Witness in which Mrs. Walker will use an inner/outer circle as the setting for discussion!

In the meantime, why not try a Socratic Seminar in your classroom! We are almost finished with SOL tesing, and what better time to have students dig deeper into a portion of text, a painting, or a movie clip! It will engergize you and your students as they consider a variety of  perspectives and end with more questions than they brought.


A short description is provided above each link…

See Seminar Lesson Plans under “For Teacher”


Includes a list of the benefits of a Socratic Seminar, key elements, sample opening questions, guiding question stems, closing question stems, and multiple links of Socratic Seminar resources.


Socratic Seminar step-by-step instructions for teachers. Includes a student handout of open-ended questions, a graphic organizer prep sheet, a partner evaluation sheet, and a participant rubric.

Socratic Seminar-Step-by-Step


“This strategy guide explains Socratic seminars and offers practical methods for applying the approach in your classroom to help students investigate multiple perspectives in a text.”


A detailed outline of the benefits and uses of Socratic Seminar, including multiple related pages to use in your classroom.


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