Socratic Seminar Tips

What is a socratic seminar?

A discussion for students to understand an idea, issue or topic presented in an text.  Through student created questions and responses students will facilitate a discussions around textual based ideas and opinions. Students use questioning, listening and communication skills to carry the discussion.

When to use this activity?

  • At the beginning of a unit to generate more questions
  • As a cumulative activity at the end of a unit

How do I Implement a Socratic Seminar?

Before

Select at least one meaningful text that contains opportunities for students to draw opinions and create interpretations of the topic at hand.

Students should come prepared to the seminar by reading and reflecting on the text. To guide their thinking you may want to prepare questions. Use this template to create questions for a text and have students answer and reflect.

During

Use these tips for help setting up your students and facilitating the discussion.

Students sit in a circle or square and follow a key set of rules. Students should:

  • Talk to each other, not just one person or the teacher
  • Speak without raising hands
  • Speak without interrupting
  • Use evidence from the text
  • When there are disagreements or confusion:
    • Ask a question to clarify: “What you’re saying is… Is that right?”
    • State another opinion with evidence

After

Give students the opportunity to evaluate the seminar in general and their own performance. This can be done immediately afterwards or as an at home assignment.  You can create evaluation forms to help with this step. Reflecting on the seminar process helps students improve their ability to participate in future discussions.

Here are some questions you might discuss or write about when reflecting on the seminar as a whole:

  • What is the most surprising idea you heard during the socratic seminar? Why?
  • Choose one: My opinion on the topic of discrimination has stayed the same or changed? Why?
  • How has your understanding of this text been affected by the ideas explored in this seminar?

Use these questions for students to evaluate their individual performance:

Rate yourself using a 1, 2, 3 scale:

  • I came prepared for the discussion today by reading the articles, completing the pre-work and coming with ideas to share
  • I encouraged thinking and participation in others by asking insightful questions and building on others’ ideas
  • I listened respectfully and took into consideration my classmates opinions.
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