I am a huge believer in integrating as much learning as possible when I plan lessons, activities, etc. This also pertains to Socratic seminars. I keep the same structure each time students meet and discuss their seminars as far as how the conversation goes - Students ask questions they had during reading which usually generates a conversation.
Then I present a central question. The central question ALWAYS relates to life in some way. It is not directly related to the story. For example, when students were discussing Nine, Ten - A September 11th Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin, the father always told his family to never stop on the side of the road as it’s very dangerous. One day, the father is driving alone and sees a man broken down on the side of the road. He stops to help and they both get hit by a truck and die. When the police came to the boy’s house to tell him and his mom what happened, the officer stated that the boy’s father was a hero. The boy then faces an internal conflict as to whether his father was truly a hero.
The central question I presented to students was, what is a hero.
In seminar, students discussed their opinions and used evidence from the story to support their opinion. After the conversation, I assigned students to write their response to the central question.
The structure of the response is one I like to use every time. The first paragraph is their opinion of the question. The second paragraph supports their opinion using evidence from the text and the third paragraph uses life or world connections to support their answer.
The idea is to explain to students that there is not a right or wrong answer, but it’s important to support their thinking with evidence. At first, students struggle with being able to write their connections either to the book or to the world or both! Because of that, I tend to model a few examples for the first couple of weeks or so.
For students who really struggle with the writing, I pull small groups and provide them with a graphic organizer.
I love to incorporate writing into the Socratic seminars because it provides an opportunity for me to teach grammar and gives students writing practice. The more they write, the better writers they become. Also, I think it’s super important for kids to be able to write about their opinions in a clear and concise way. I find that they have a much easier time with this task after they’ve spent 15-20 minutes discussing it with the group and of course, after they practice on a regular basis.
Would you like a copy of the outline I use with my struggling writers?
Daughter of the King, wife and mother, former upper elementary teacher, curriculum and course developer