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					                     Questioning Strategy: Socratic Seminar

Purpose of the Strategy:
Socratic Seminars help students learn a significant amount about a
text through the seminar process and also allow them to demonstrate
their knowledge of the concepts taught and discussed. Socratic
Seminars also help students develop critical thinking skills, as they
are able to both pose questions to and answer questions given by
their class members.


Context:
This strategy would most effectively be used after the reading
process as a final evaluation on what students learned about the overarching themes or
concepts present in the novel.

Rationale:
A Socratic Seminar is an effective way for teachers to holistically and effectively assess
students’ understanding of a text. The Socratic Seminar shows how well students
understand aspects of a text because students are posing and answering questions about
the text’s theme, characters, overarching question, etc.


Time Needed:
      2-3 days
           o 1-2 days to explain how a Socratic seminar works and to assign students to
              write their essays about questions they want to discuss in the seminar
           o 1 day to hold the actual seminar in class
Materials Needed:
      “Question Types” Handout
      “Socratic Seminar Tracking Grid” and Student Self-assessment Handout
Directions:
       Step 1: 1-2 days before the seminar, teachers will need to walk their students
through the seminar process so they understand what they are preparing for


                  Grierson, BYU, 2009 (adapted from Hansen-Wing)
      pass out the “Brainwaves Bounce” handout about the two most effective types of
       questions to ask
      students will write a one page essay on a question that they have about some
       aspect of the novel that they are studying.
       Step 2: Have students cluster and then prewrite about the question they wish to
pose. Then have them write their essay and include a question to pose to the class during
the seminar.
       Step 3: Have students circle their desks on the day of the Seminar. They are to
bring with them their typed essays, blank paper, a pen, their copy of the novel, a tracking
guide, and their name written in big, dark, clear letters on a nametag that sits on their desk
and faces the rest of the class.
       Note: students that are not prepared (don’t have their essays typed and in-
class) cannot participate (instead they take an alternate assessment or test).
       Step 4: Teach how to use the tracking guide and the rules of the seminar
              students are allowed to make four comments throughout the seminar (but no
               more than four).
              they should try to include part or all of the components of critical thinking –
               analysis, reference to the text, connections, and reference to what someone
               else says in the seminar – in their comments.
              have them document their comments and which category – analysis, text,
               connections, or reference – they fall under.
       Step 5: Remind students of how a Socratic Seminar works
              students take turns posing the question about the novels that their essays
               are written about.
              students who are interested in responding to the question raise their hand
               and wait for the person who posed the question to call on them (the person
               who poses the question cannot respond until other students have started
               discussing it).
              after students are no longer interested in discussing that particular question,
               a different student poses a new question to the group and it is discussed.




                    Grierson, BYU, 2009 (adapted from Hansen-Wing)
       Step 6: Place yourself, as the teacher, at the outside of the circle and listen to, but
do not contribute, to the students’ comments and conversation. Note student contribution
and assess student responses.
       Step 7: End the seminar fifteen minutes before class is dismissed and pose one
final question to the class. Have them record their responses.
                 You can pose any question you would like (i.e. how is the conflict
                  between loyalty to friends and worldly, material success reflected in our
                  society?)
       Step 8: Pose the following wrap-up questions to your students and have them
record their responses.
                 What did you notice about this seminar?
                 What did you notice about your own participation in this seminar?
       Step 9: Collect students’ essays, the three wrap-up questions, and tracking guide
sheets.


Assessment:
This will be a final assessment on students’ understanding of the novel that you have
studied as a class. Socratic Seminars are graded holistically. After you establish standards
for critical thinking in your class, you evaluate students’ comments in the seminar (focusing
on the four components of critical thinking on the students’ tracking guide sheets).
      Establish a shorthand notation that works for instructor objective
          o Focus on four areas:
                      Analysis and thoughtfulness: Is the comment original? Does it show
                       analysis of the text? Is the comment “below the surface?”
                      Reference to the text: Do they refer the rest of the students to specific
                       information in the text?
                      Text to self/world/text connections: Do they accurately apply the
                       concept in question to areas outside of the text?
                      Reference to others’ comments: Do they show that they have listened
                       to their peers’ comments by referencing them, evaluating them, and
                       challenging or building off of them? (“I agree with ______” doesn’t
                       count)

                      Grierson, BYU, 2009 (adapted from Hansen-Wing)
           Use +, √, and – to indicate the degree of competency in any category
           When a student has participated enough that you can assess their
              contributions and content knowledge accurately, note a grade for them and
              focus on grading other students’ contributions. If at the end of the seminar
              you are still unsure of a student’s understanding, refer to the student’s typed
              essay and three wrap-up questions.


Alternatives:
      Have students write the questions to be used during the seminar.
      Give students the option to take a written test instead of participating in the seminar
       (will accommodate the needs of shyer students).


Summary and Segue:
After completing this Socratic Seminar, students should have learned how to ask critical
questions and how to answer them as well. They should have learned how to engage with
text in a meaningful way in order to craft questions that provoke discussion and analysis.
Finally, they should have learned how to engage in meaningful discussion with their peers
as they ask and answer questions posed by the group about Charles Dickens’ Great
Expectations.




                  Grierson, BYU, 2009 (adapted from Hansen-Wing)
Name ______________________________              Date ________________ Period ___________




There are two types of questions that are best for critical thinking to occur. I am expecting to see
and hear you asking many of these types of questions during the Socratic Seminar. Please read the
following descriptions of the two different types of questions so you can be prepared during the
seminar.

                                                Questioning Questions ask about the parts of the text
                                                that seem insignificant or that don’t quite seem to
make sense. They’re the parts where you, as the reader, go, “What? Why in the world does the
author have that part in there?” No, the author isn’t just “filling space.” There is a reason behind
what an author decides to put in, and leave out, from his or her novel. Your job is to figure out what
he or she means. Questioning Questions try and figure out the answer. There are not “right” or
“wrong” answers to this question. If you can textually support your answer, you’re right. If you
can’t, you’re wrong.

    How to Write and Answer Questioning Questions                               Words to Use
      Identify the parts of the text that don’t seem to make
       sense or that seem insignificant                                   How is ____ related to . . . ?
      Write the question that you naturally asked as you                 Why do you think . . . ?
       read                                                               What is the relationship
      Look for anything in the text to provide insight                    between . . . ?
      Develop a hypothesis that is supported by the text                 Why is the focus . . . ?
      When you present your answer, discuss what you                     Why did the character . . . ?
       think and why you think that


                                                 Predicting Questions attempt to delineate the purpose
                                                       of the text according to the author and yourself
 (they will most likely be different). Prediction Questions try to connect images, symbolism, and
 words to the purpose of the reading. There are again no “right” or “wrong” answers. Just use the
 text to back yourself up!

   How to Write and Answer Predicting Questions                                Words to Use
    Look at images, symbols, and recurring issues
    Look at the title and the beginning and end                         What is your opinion of . . . ?
    Write questions that tie your discoveries to the                    Why did they . . . ?
     text’s purpose                                                      How could you explain . . . ?
    Look for anything in the text to provide insight                    Why was it better that . . . ?
    Develop a hypothesis that is supported by the text                  How would you compare the
                                                                          ideas/people . . . ?
    When you present your answer, discuss what you

                    Grierson, BYU, 2009 (adapted from Hansen-Wing)
       think and why you think that

Name ______________________________                   Date ________________ Period ___________


                               Socratic Seminar Tracking Grid
You have the chance to make four (4) comments during this seminar. Please track the comments you
make ensuring that for each comment you include part or all of the components delineating a critical
thinker

    Comment                Analysis                   Text               Connections             Reference

         1

         2

         3

         4



Analysis: Analyze the text and discuss the original conclusions you come to. Mention ideas you
come up with pertaining to themes or issues in the text, or add your original thoughts to an issue
someone else has brought up. Stay on topic. Go deep. Wow the class!
Text: Reference specific examples from the text that either support or disprove the claim being
discussed. Refer the class to the page or line you’re talking about.
Connections: Apply the concept in question to areas outside of the text area. How is the idea in
question prove or disproven in your world? Think of text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world
connections.
Reference: Evaluate what others say and then either challenge or build off of them. Show that you
are listening to your peers. (“I agree with Sarah” doesn’t count)


Name _______________________________ Date ___________________ Period _____
                              Socratic Seminar Self-Assessment Rubric
  I showed a clear and deep understanding of novel           I acknowledged and built off of others’ comments
 themes. I worked well with many parts of the novel                    without being domineering

          10 9 8 7 6 other: _________                                   5 3 1 other: _________
I related my comments and questions back to the novel        I was present at the seminar meaning that I was
                                                                listening, contributing, and not having side


                     Grierson, BYU, 2009 (adapted from Hansen-Wing)
                                                     conversations
5   3   1    other: _________                5   3   1 other: _________




            Grierson, BYU, 2009 (adapted from Hansen-Wing)

				
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