Socratic Seminars are fantastic for so many reasons. Students love talking and debating with one another, and they don’t even realize that they’re building their critical thinking skills and directing their own learning while doing so. Furthermore, the seminars meet a TON of common core state standards (hello, speaking and listening). Discussions are fun to facilitate, and they’re fairly easy to plan and grade, too!
I like to hold Socratic Seminars at the end of every major novel unit. I typically hold the seminar immediately after finishing a text... I want students to discuss freely before we touch on major themes and ideas as a class. I’ve always received very positive feedback on seminars; students beg to do them again. While I typically hold seminars for book talk, the format would work well for discussing debate topics as well. (Which would be an awesome way to bring in some informational texts!)
My Socratic Seminars are divided into three graded components: Speaking, Preparation Notes, and Outer Circle Notes. I arrange my desks in half; one half forms a "super" discussion table in the middle of the room, and the other half are arranged in a circle around the discussion table. On seminar days, half of my class sits at the super table and discusses for half of the hour, while I listen and keep track of who contributes. The other half sits in the outside circle to listen and take notes. Halfway through the hour, students switch roles. This gives all students the opportunity to discuss and to listen, and keeps the discussion group to a manageable size. I have found that this format works marvelously, and my bundle includes more detailed instructions for how to arrange and facilitate this.
My Socratic Seminar lesson takes one full class period. However, the lesson plan and resources provided can be used over and over for any novel unit. I typically hold 3-5 Socratic Seminars per school year, and the kids love it.
This Socratic Seminar bundle includes the following:
• Detailed instructions for how to plan, facilitate, and grade a Socratic Seminar
• A Discussion Rules & Tips handout for students, which includes rules for a healthy, productive discussion and tips for how students can contribute meaningfully to the conversation
• A Socratic Seminar Instruction Sheet handout that clearly outlines expectations for students
• My custom Socratic Seminar Participation Chart, which is an easy way to grade students' speaking and listening skills during discussion. In addition to keeping track of how many times each student contributes to the conversation, this chart also keeps track of each comment's level of critical thinking.
• Bonus! Of Mice and Men Preparation Notes Examples serve as a great model for students when they go to write their own preparation notes and questions (and obviously works perfectly with an Of Mice and Men unit!)
I hope you enjoy this product... please let me know what you think! Happy discussing!
Keywords: Socratic Seminar; Socratic; discussion; roundtable discussion; whole class discussion; speaking and listening; novel unit; Of Mice and Men