In this post, I provide a checklist that teachers can use to plan a text-based Socratic Seminar. This iteration of a Socratic seminar supports the development of content knowledge, literacy skills, and higher order thinking through a versatile four-part approach: (1) Learning/Reviewing, (2) Reading, (3) Discussing, and (4) Writing. Although it can be tailored for use in any subject or grade level, it is most suitable for secondary and post-secondary courses pertaining to Developmental Literacy, English, and Social Studies.
Important Firsts: Determining the Topic and Outcomes:
_____ Pick a topic that includes 2+ perspectives, opinions, or points-of-view.
_____ Write the objectives–what students will know or be able to do at lesson end.
_____ Find a text–not too easy/hard–that aligns with the topic and objectives.
Part I. Learning/Reviewing: Build Background Knowledge
_____ Read the text; note difficult spots and connections to course content.
_____ Decide what students will learn/review before reading the text.
_____ Decide how they’ll learn/review it (e.g., lecture, reciprocal teaching).
_____ Create/find suitable teaching materials (e.g., slides, videos).
_____ Create an activity so students can apply what they learned/reviewed.
_____ Prepare materials that are necessary for facilitating the activity.
Part II. Reading: Support Comprehension of the Text
_____ Decide how to introduce the text to students.
_____ Set a purpose for reading–what students should take from the text.
_____ Decide how the reading will be carried out (e.g., in groups, independently).
_____ Select a during-reading strategy and decide how to introduce it.
_____ Pick a during- or post-reading task and decide how to introduce it.
_____ Prepare all materials necessary for Part II (i.e. Reading).
Part III. Discussing: Organize and Structure It Well
Option 1: 100% Participation – All students participate the whole time
_____ Decide how to arrange the desks/tables (e.g., circle, u-shape).
_____ Determine how long the discussion will last.
_____ Write a prompt/question to use to start the discussion.
_____ Determine how you’ll track individual participation.
_____ Decide how you’ll handle awkward silence, misbehavior, etc.
_____ Assemble all necessary materials (e.g., timer, talking chips, roster).
OPTION 2: 50/50 Participation – Students work in pairs. One takes part in the discussion while the other observes/evaluates. Halfway through, the two switch places.
_____ Decide how to arrange the desks/tables (e.g., concentric circles, fishbowl)
_____ Pick a strategy for putting students into pairs.
_____ Decide how long each half of the discussion will last.
_____ Decide what students will do while observing/evaluating.
_____ Plan a prompt/question to start the discussion (1st half).
_____ Decide how you’ll re-start (i.e. resume) the discussion (2nd half).
_____ Decide how to handle awkward silence, misbehavior, etc.
_____ Develop/prep all necessary materials (e.g., forms, timer, talking chips).
Part IV. Writing: Reinforcing/Assessing Student Learning
_____ Develop a written assignment for students to do after the discussion.
_____ Set clear performance expectations (e.g., length, contents, format).
_____ Determine whether a review or mini-lesson is needed.
_____ Decide what else you’ll do to help students be successful.
_____ Establish due date(s)* and protocols for turning in work.
_____ Develop all necessary materials (e.g., slides, instructions, rubric, examples).
*For formal essays/projects, you may need to break the assignment into steps and require students to submit something for each step (e.g., bibliography, draft, media).