Let’s just face it, Socratic seminars are either super rad or super sad. When the students stay focused and discuss using evidence from the text and their own lives, magic happens in the English classroom; but, when you get a class that is quiet, they just stare at each other and all you hear is “crickets”. However, the whole-class graded Socratic seminar is highly rigorous and will keep your students engaged for an entire 55 minute period whether they are extroverts or introverts – I promise!
First, I set my classroom up with three Socratic circles – from the center circle out, there should be a chair behind each student (as the students are going to rotate up and out).
Second, as the students come into class, I tell them to pick a circle to sit in: inner, middle, or outer and I give them a one word descriptor for each so they can decide to sit based on what they think is their strength in argument writing (i.e. inner – thesis, middle – evidence, outer – TOES (which I use as a short way to say: types of evidence (literature, current event, history, pop culture, personal anecdote, social observations, etc.).
Third, once the students have chosen their seats and I then hand out a class set of directions, similar to the below, and verbally talk them through the directions.
Of Mice and Men Satire
Graded Socratic Seminar
Whole-Class Essay Outline
1. Inner circle will be creating the thesis statement with two “prongs” (i.e. two body paragraphs) that will answer the following prompt (when finished, they will move out of the circle to the back circle, pair up, and will create full circle hook/closure options while circle 2 and 3 go): – 10 min.
After reading “Girl Moved to Tears by Of Mice and Men Cliffs Notes” and examining the satirical cartoon, outline an essay defending or refuting whether satire is an effective way to deliver a message.
2. Center circle will be choosing the (four) 4 pieces textual evidence ((two) 2 for each body paragraph) from the article/cartoon that help support the thesis statement chosen in circle 1. 15 min.
3. Outer circle will be coming up with (two) 2 TOES (types of evidence (literature, current event, history, pop culture, personal anecdote, social observations, etc.), USING YOUR PHONE if necessary, that will help support the thesis chosen and pair well with circle 2’s chosen evidence in the body paragraphs. 15 min.
Thus, at the end of the hour, the outline below (that I write for them on the front white board) should be completely filled.
Body 1: Reason
Body 2: Reason
Basically, I do not run Socratic seminar, the students do.
Here are some teacher pointers:
- At the end of the hour, I review the white board with their whole-class determined outline and I talk them through their strengths and weaknesses and then I score it on an AP 1-9 scale right in front of them. The entire class gets the same score in the grade book.
- Make sure each circle nominates a “scribe” to write their ideas down on the white board (they can still contribute to the discussion from the front of the room).
- I tell each circle when their time is up (and I literally time them on my phone, when I have not done this they run out of time) and they rotate up and out.
- I remind them that if they are not in the center circle at that moment then they must be silent and listening to their peers.
Post a comment with any questions,