Since I jumped on the Socratic Seminar bandwagon several years ago, I have found it to be the most effective teaching strategy I use for literature. However, I have modified how I run the seminars over time in order to avoid pitfalls I experienced in class. The single biggest modification I have made to ensure successful and productive discussions is the concept of the "Entrance Ticket."
The entrance ticket is a note sheet that students have to bring completed to the seminar discussion in order to participate. (Luckily at my school, I do have the option of sending kids to a Learning Center if they don't have the entrance ticket done, but I hardly ever have to use it.) My challenge in creating the entrance ticket for a text is to provide a way to effectively focus the students' reading without turning it into the "hunt and peck" habit of simply reading to find an "answer" to a lower-level comprehension question. I want my students engaged in critical reading and discussion of the text.
This bundle is what I use when I teach George Orwell's novel 1984 in my junior composition classes in order to achieve that goal. The bundle includes a two-page Socratic seminar "entrance ticket" for each of the three books in the novel. Each entrance ticket has just four focus reading areas that address topics, literary techniques, and "big ideas" that are important in that section of the novel, with the entrance ticket for Book Three focusing on overall thematic ideas. Each focus is stated succinctly and the sheet is designed to give students plenty of room to write notes and questions and record important page numbers.
Specifically, the note sheets cover these important aspects of the novel:
1. Impact of point of view
2. Methods of characterization
3. Big ideas and thematic ideas
4. How irony, paradox, and symbolism are used to create and convey Orwell's meaning
5. The concepts of totalitarianism and doublethink
6. Science fiction and dystopias
If you are interested in learning how I organize and grade Socratic seminar in my classes, please see the Socratic Seminar resource in my store. It includes my organization (including how I arrange my room), my introductory Power Point, my rubric and exit ticket, and even what I use for a make up assignment if a student should be absent for a seminar.