Lesson Plan for a Text-Based Socratic Seminar (Part One)

To prepare prospective English and Social Studies teachers to address important literacy skills, I planned and facilitated a two-part lesson on secondary literacy instruction. In this post, I share details concerning the first half of the lesson, which sought to provide prospective secondary teachers (PSTs) with the background necessary for participating in a text-based Socratic seminar on content-area and disciplinary literacy.

For details concerning the text-based Socratic seminar, click here.


Title. “Perspectives on Secondary Literacy Instruction (Part I)”
Subject. Literacy Practices and Instruction (Adolescent/Adult)
Duration. 70 minutes
InTASC Standard 5: Application of Content. 5(n) The teacher understands communication modes as vehicles for learning …as well as vehicles for expressing learning.
InTASC Standard 4: Content Knowledge. 4(j) The teacher understands concepts, assumptions, debates, processes, and ways of knowing central to the discipline s/he teaches.
Prospective secondary teachers (PSTs) will be able to:
1. Apply a content-area literacy strategy to a particular content area.
2. Describe 3-4 aspects of disciplinary literacy within a particular content area.
3. Accurately distinguish between content-area literacy and disciplinary literacy.
1. PSTs choose a WTL strategy and explain how they would use it in a content-area lesson. (O1)
2. PSTs will list 3-4 disciplinary skills/ways of thinking within their content area. (O2)
3. PSTs will listen to a series of statements, determine whether each statement applies to content-area literacy or disciplinary literacy, and explain their selection. (O3)


Focus Attention. The teacher will (TTW) explain that when many people hear text, they think books; however, text includes more than just books. TTW display a list with different types of texts and ask PSTs what, if anything, they would add.

Prior Knowledge. TTW ask PSTs to think about texts in their content area and answer two questions: (1) What literacy skills do students need in order to engage with those texts? (2) What activities do students typically do with those texts? After two minutes, TTW ask PSTs to share their answers. For each content area, TTW list several answers on the board, underline elements common to most/all content areas and circle elements that are “unique.”

Connect to the Lesson. TTW explain that some elements are common to all content areas, but others are unique to 1-2. This duality has led to two perspectives on secondary literacy (i.e. content-area literacy and disciplinary literacy), which are addressed throughout this lesson.

Objectives & Agenda. TTW share the objectives PTSs are expected to achieve by the end of the lesson: (1) apply a content-area strategy to their content area, (2) describe several aspects of disciplinary literacy as it relates to their content area, and (3) distinguish between content-area literacy and disciplinary literacy. TTW also share the agenda, which includes two mini-lectures, each followed by a student-centered activity.
Lesson Body
Presentation 1: Content-Area Literacy. TTW explain the following information with the help of 3 Power Point slides: Students need literacy instruction in high school (and beyond). To address this need, experts recommend that all teachers incorporate literacy into their lessons (i.e. “Every teacher a reading and writing teacher”). Teachers react strongly to this idea; some say it’s not their responsibility while others say it’s important but impossible. One solution is content-area literacy, which includes generic strategies that can be used in all content areas to increase literacy engagement without sacrificing content. For example, Writing to Learn includes informal writing strategies such as learning logs, concept maps, and journals.

Activity 1: Writing to Learn – Gallery Walk & Discussion. PSTs will participate in a gallery walk, in which each exhibit includes a synopsis and a visual representation of a Writing to Learn strategy. They will view the exhibits for three minutes and, when the timer sounds, stand quietly by their favorite one. For the next 3 minutes, PSTs will discuss why they chose the strategy and how they plan use it in a lesson for their content area. When the timer sounds, one PST at each exhibit will be asked to share his/her ideas with the class. Then, PSTs will return to their seats for the next mini-lecture.

Presentation 2: Disciplinary Literacy. TTW present the following info with the help of 2 Power Point slides: Many literacy experts criticize content-area literacy because it fails to recognize the skills and ways of thinking unique to each discipline. They recommend that teachers in each content-area and/or subject identify disciplinary literacies and tailor their instruction accordingly. To ensure that PSTs understand what disciplinary literacy is, TT will provide examples from a content area not associated with the class.

Activity 2: Small Group Discussion – Disciplinary Literacy. PSTs will get into their content-area groups and develop a list of the skills and ways of thinking associated with their content area. Then, TTW have each group share their ideas, which will be added to a concept map on the white board.
Review Objectives. TT will reiterate the lesson objectives and how each one was met.

Check Understanding. TT will display a series of statements about content-area literacy or disciplinary literacy. For each statement, TT will ask PSTs to respond chorally to indicate which of the perspectives it addresses (e.g., includes mapping and learning logs, includes specialized skills and ways of thinking), and then ask one PST to provide an explanation.

Look Ahead. TT will explain that PSTs have gained a basic understanding of each perspective, identified disciplinary literacies and developed an idea for using one content-area writing strategy. In the next lesson, PSTs will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of these two perspectives and to think critically about the validity of each one.

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