3 Reasons to Embrace Socratic Seminar | Mentoring in the Middle

3 Reasons to Embrace Socratic Seminar

Socratic Seminar is such a powerful tool to use with your students.  Once you teach them a few rules about how to engage with each other, you will love the thinking that comes out of your students' heads.  I love the way it gets kids thinking about and discussing text!

Give students a passage to read a few days ahead of time with the explicit direction that it must be completely read or else they don't get to participate in the discussion.  You can give them questions to think about or with some instruction, have them come up with questions that require text evidence.

On the day of the Socratic Seminar, we review that students should talk like they're having a conversation.  They don't raise hands and they don't wait for someone to tell them when to speak.  They respectfully wait for someone to finish speaking before speaking; sometimes two or more people will speak at the same time and we discuss what to do, and then we're pretty much ready to go.

In the beginning, students will wait for you to start them.  I sit in the circle with them and stay quiet.  Eventually, someone gets uncomfortable and starts the discussion. Then, watch your students go!

Why give up all the control and let students lead the discussion?

#1 - Kids get to to hear other kids process out loud
The power of kids learning from kids shouldn't be underestimated.  I am stunned at how much students appreciate hearing other kids think aloud.  Hearing someone take a stand, and then watching that person's viewpoint change because of new evidence presented by someone else - that's powerful stuff!  And you see kids nodding their heads in agreement, so you know they're on board with this new information, too.

#2 - Collaboration builds confidence
Many students say they look at text differently after these discussions.  There are nuances they notice now that they didn't before.  They feel less intimidated about answering questions in class because, especially after a Seminar, they see how much they can add on to each others' ideas and how safe that kind of collaboration feels.

#3 - You want them digging into the text, right?
Observe the discussion as one student stops, eyes racing up and down the paper to find the exact text evidence wanted.  Suddenly, someone else who is searching finds it, and now everyone is paying closer attention to text, and even marking it as they listen to others' points of view.  You will see attention to detail that you don't always see.

And the best part?  Students will tell you, in one way or another, that while it's helpful to learn from you, it makes so much more of an impact when they learn from each other.

Give it a try!  There are lots of wonderful resources out there to get you started.  One of the best ones I found is here.

Have a great week!


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  2. Thank you so much for this post! I am going to implement Socratic Seminar with my 5th graders. I appreciate your insight.