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

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.

    Welcome!

    Welcome!

    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

    Categories

    Instagram

    • Tell me in the comments below 👇🏼 What type of writing do you HATE teaching the most?⁣
⁣
Narratives? Argumentative? Informational? Text-based? ⁣
⁣
ALL OF THEM?!⁣
⁣
So many teachers reach out to us about struggles they face when teaching writing, so know that you are NOT ALONE. ⁣
⁣
All of this to say, I love seeing the success of our EB Teachers with writing in their classrooms like Kate from @kateteaching7and8 who is using so many of our EB Teachers’ Club resources to see amazing results for her students!⁣
⁣
I love what Kate has to say about these lessons, “I really feel like the EB Teachers’ Club has me not only feeling more prepared as I start class each day, but also like I’m increasing my expectations and rigor. The greatest part is the kids are rising to meet the new expectations.” 😍♥️🤗
    • Something that I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve been doing a lot of personal work to grow and become the best version of myself ...⁣
⁣
I think it’s important for us to remember how we are showing up each day. Whether that’s in the classroom or even at home with family and friends. ⁣
⁣
Who are we being?⁣
⁣
And why are we being that way?⁣
⁣
If there’s something about yourself that you don’t like, first I want you to question why you feel that way and where that belief about yourself comes from. ⁣
⁣
But then I want to encourage you to think about how you could adjust to be the best version of you. ⁣
⁣
I’ll give you an example from myself ... I am VERY high strung. And I have been telling myself this narrative about who I am for forever. My family tells me. My friends tell me. ⁣
⁣
But that’s not who I want to be and that’s now what I want to define me. ⁣
⁣
So I’ve taken a hard look at why I feel this way about myself, and what I can do to alter that narrative and not be high strung. And not be defined in that way. ⁣
⁣
Just some food for thought on a Sunday morning. ⁣
⁣
Feel free to share your thoughts with me ♥️
    • Can I be completely honest for a second?

One thing that I miss about being a classroom teacher (in addition to SO many other things) is dressing up every day 🤷🏼‍♀️ There, I said it 😱

Weird? I don’t know ... maybe, but that’s me.
    • It is very possible that today’s podcast episode will completely contradict a major component of the way you teach literary analysis. 
In the episode, we reveal our third game-changing strategy for teaching evidence-based writing, and we’re asking you to take a breath, suspend judgement for a moment, and allow us to walk you through exactly why we believe in this strategy, even though it goes against the grain. 
Continue listening to the episode here —> ebacademics.com/35
    • One of the biggest mistakes we can make as writing teachers is requiring our students to start their essays with a HOOK. 
With this strategy, students gets STUCK on that first sentence before they can even get a chance to get to the heart of their paper! They end up wasting tons of precious writing time trying to come up with an interesting hook that oftentimes is a stretch. 
Instead, we want to give our students a CLEAR roadmap to begin their essays. One that will give them confidence in their abilities from the get go. One that allows them to quickly move into the meat of their critical analysis, so they can truly show us what they've learned. 
If you've ever taught hook and are ready to try a new, counterintuitive approach that WORKS and gives your students RESULTS, this episode is a MUST listen. 
Head over here to give it a listen --> ebacademics.com/34
    • Double tap if you agree ♥️♥️⁣
⁣
And if you need to call in sick to take a mental health day for yourself. DO IT. Take a day off and go get a pedicure, or go shopping, or go workout!⁣
⁣
Do whatever you need to do to get to the place of your best self. ⁣
⁣
I used to work with a teacher who took a mental health day every month. It was when I first started teaching, and I didn’t get it. Why was she doing that?⁣
⁣
Well, fast forward to a decade in the classroom later, and now I truly see the value and importance of doing that! ⁣
⁣
I know you hear it all the time, but let it sink in ...⁣
⁣
You need to do what’s best for YOU and take care of yourself first. If we aren’t operating from our best selves, then we’re not able to serve anyone the way that we’re capable of. ⁣
⁣
On another note, hope you all enjoyed that extra hour of sleep last night! And if you have young children, I can commiserate. My little guy woke up at 6:30 😂😭🤦🏼‍♀️📸 @dumbosteiner

    Follow @ebacademics

    ×