How to Run a Socratic Seminar in Your Classroom - EB Academics

Grab Your Free Writing Guide

Become an EB Insider Today

How to Run a Socratic Seminar in Your Classroom

May 28, 2017 3 min read

How to Run a Socratic Seminar in Your Classroom

May 28, 2017 3 min read

We have used Socratic Seminars with our third graders all the way up through our twelfth graders to discuss short stories, poetry, and sets of chapters in a novel. While obviously the level of questions change, the setup remains pretty much the same. Here’s how we set up our seminars from start to finish:

1. Day before Seminar:
Depending on the grade level, we pass out the questions that will be discussed to give students ample time to prepare their answers and search for evidence. If students are older or once they are more comfortable participating in Socratic Seminars, we pass out the questions only minutes before the seminar begins.
2. Before Seminar Begins:
Ideally, we like to set up our chairs before the seminar begins so when students arrive, we can immediately start discussing. We split our students into two groups…half in the inner circle and half in the outer circle. The students in the inner circle will discuss the first half of the questions we distributed, and the students in the outer circle will answer the second half of the questions.
Additionally, we leave an empty chair in the inner circle to be used ONE time each by any student in the outer circle who so desperately has something to add to the discussion that they absolutely HAVE to share it right away. Our kids know not to enter the inner circle with a comment like, “Jackson, I agree with you.” (Note: we only do this once our students demonstrate the ability to handle this aspect of the seminar.)
3. Start of Seminar: 
Select a student leader who is in charge of reading aloud each question and deciding which student speaks if two or more try to answer at the same time. The student leader also decides when it’s time to move on to the next question and encourages quieter students to share more and dominant students to take a step back and listen to others.
4. During Seminar:
During the Seminar, here’s what everyone should be doing:
  • Students in outer circle: Complete this observation checklist to stay engaged in the discussion even if they are not verbally participating. This checklist is a part of this larger How to Teach Writing Resource.
  • Students in inner circle: Participate actively in discussion.
  • Teacher: Sit off to the side and complete a rubric for each student. We use this one, which you can download for free. You should only interject to ask a follow-up question that will get students expanding on their answers.
5. Things we’ve learned over the years:
Encourage students to use their classmate’s names when expanding on their comments. Require manners. Insist on evidence from the text to support their reasoning. (Example: “Morgan, I politely disagree with you. According to the text…”)

** Here’s a sample of the Socratic Seminar questions we use when teaching the short story, “The Most Dangerous Game:” Notice they leave ample room for various opinions and are also text-dependent.

  • Do you think Rainsford’s views on hunting have changed at the end of the story?
  • Did Zaroff’s actions ultimately contribute to his death?
  • Does Rainsford value human life?
  • Are Rainsford and Zaroff similar? Why or why not?
  • Why is it titled “The Most Dangerous Game”?
  • Do Rainsford and Zaroff follow the rules in “The Most Dangerous Game”? Does everyone follow the rules in everyday life?
If you end up using Socratic Seminar in your classroom, let us know how it goes! 
We’d love to answer any other questions you might have as well 🙂
Save this post for later!
How to set up a socratic seminar in your english language arts classroom! An easy step-by-step guide with free resources!
EB Academic Camps

All posts

1 Comment

  • erica December 5, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    This was extremely helpful! Thank you!

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



    Hi there! We're two middle school ELA teachers with a mission to share ideas, tips, and tricks for effectively teaching reading and writing in the secondary classroom. We're so happy you stopped by!

    Caitlin + Jessica

    Your 15 Free Resources Are Waiting!

    Immediately receive access to our
    Free Resource Library

    We promise we won't spam you.

    Let’s Connect

    Popular Posts

    Our Latest Posts



    • You guys!! 🥳🎉 ⁣⁣
Our FREE ebook is done and ready for you!! 😘😘⁣⁣
We’ve included over 25 pages of content that includes tips, strategies, structures, free lesson plan ideas, activities, and links to even MORE free content! ⁣⁣
... plus a special link to our Balanced Teaching Approach Facebook Group where we have ANOTHER free resource download for you as well ♥️ ⁣⁣
Come join us on this journey to find more balance in your teaching life 😘 ⁣⁣
LMK in the comments if you’d like me to DM you the link!
    • I put our new office together with a few things in mind: calmness, brightness, and functionality ♥️ I have to say, we really love getting to work in this space each day!
    • Surprise!! 🥳🎉 ⁣
... and no, I’m not back in the classroom (although I kind of wish I was!) ...⁣
But even more exciting for YOU is that our ELA Masterclass Mini Series from last year is coming back!! ⁣
I’ve teamed up with @buildingbooklove @readitwriteitlearnit @readingandwritinghaven and @doccopteaching to bring you some AMAZING virtual Professional Development!⁣
Registration opens tomorrow and the virtual sessions will be released on Sunday, September 15th! ⁣
Make sure to register as soon as we open registration because I know so many of you were bummed to have missed this last year! We can’t wait! 😘♥️
    • Enough said 🍎
    • I’ve gotta be honest in that I am really missing moments like this at the end of a successful teaching day ... 🥺 ⁣
And this isn’t to say I’m asking for sympathy in any way! I’m very happy and loving supporting teachers and students in a different way this year outside of the classroom!⁣
But it is to say, I LOVE teaching, and I always will, and I hope at some point in the future to be able to be back in my own classroom doing what I absolutely was put on this earth to do ♥️♥️⁣
In the meantime, however, Jessica and I have SO much incredible stuff coming your way (free online PD, a free ebook, and so much more!) 😘⁣
Tomorrow, when you turn on the lights to your classroom and are getting everything set up for your day of teaching, just know that you are making a difference in children’s lives!! 🤗😘♥️
    • Freebie!! Woo hoo!! 🎉🥳🤩 (And yes, Jessica is making an appearance on the gram!!). If you haven’t grabbed our three free weeks of bell ringers from us yet, what are you waiting for?! LMK in the comments if you’d like me to DM you the link to grab them 🤗🤗 I’ll get back to you tonight and over the weekend!

    Follow @ebacademics