Jun 02

Socratic Seminar Success

In my previous post, the stage was set for having a Socratic Seminar in Mrs. Ashley Walker’s English 9 Honors class. In preparation for a culminating seminar, Mrs. Walker began the session by dividing the class into 2 groups, having students number off, 1,2,1,2, etc. The 1’s sat in an inner circle, and the 2’s sat in an outer circle, equipped with sticky notes to write comments on an assigned student in the inner circle. These notes included the types of questions that were asked as well as the types of contributing statements that were made. As a springboard for discussion, Mrs. Walker had created open-ended questions that were projected for the students.. This was their culminating Socratic Seminar on Witness.

Witness by Karen Hesse is a five-act poetic play set in Vermont in 1924. It is about two young girls, one African-American, one Jewish, who were living a happy life until the Ku Klux Klan moves in to the neighborhood. The neighborhood begins to turn on its own. Should the protagonists move? Is it feasible? In the video below notice how the leader, Mrs. Walker, acts as both leader and participant.  Students had been taught to serialize as well, that is “asking a series of questions based on the previous response of a student.”

009 from Renee Balch on Vimeo.

Inside and outside circle, serializing, and other techniques can be found in Socratic Seminar- A Teacher Resource Packet. Remember to start small and teach the basics using think-pair-share and wait-time. Your students will thank you for it….later.

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