Tag Archives: socratic seminar

The Hero and Anti-Hero

6th February 2016

Ody vs. Burton

My freshmen classes are currently reading Homer’s The Odyssey. We basically read excerpts from Books 1, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 21, 22, and 23 as I assume many high school English classes do.

I read basically every other book with them as a whole class. We take notes on the book using an easy mind-map sheet, watch film clips that pertain to the book, and then discuss important literary elements present such as archetypes, epic similes, allusions, etc.

For the remaining book I do not teach as a whole class, the student teams are responsible for reading the book together as a table and then completing an assigned task that they will later present to the class on the book. This is a great way to break up the reading material and also deepen their knowledge of the text itself.

Ultimately, however, the goal is for them to understand that Odysseus is an epic hero who fits the hero archetype and conquers the hero’s journey.

I want the students to be able to argue who is more valuable to society: the hero or the anti-hero?

Once this is established, I will counter the hero archetype with that of the anti-hero. In this second half of the quarter, the students will begin to watch film clips of Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie), Edward Scissorhands (Edward), and Corpse Bride (Victor) – which they love, but still have to take pretty detailed notes on.


Students engage in a mini-film study in order to be able to analyze how Tim Burton uses specific cinematic techniques in order to present an argument about the role of the anti-hero in society (just like Homer uses specific literary devices to convey his message about the hero).

Finally, the students defend their choice, hero or anti-hero, in a Socratic Seminar using non-fiction articles (see above links to a few that I use) and their knowledge of The Odyssey and Burton’s film clips.

At the end of the quarter we crown a winner, is it Odysseus or Burton?



The Super Rad Socratic

3rd February 2015

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).

2015-01-30 13.41.01

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.

  1. 2015-01-29 13.22.22

    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

Evidence (article/cartoon)

Evidence (article/cartoon)


Body 2: Reason

Evidence (article/cartoon)

Evidence (article/cartoon)




2015-02-02 11.28.45 2015-02-02 11.28.50

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,

XO. Brit