Socratic Seminar

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These are also available on the shared directory.

The Basics:

* Elements of Socratic Seminars (the four main elements: text, opening question, leader, & participants)

* The 103 Great Ideas (great to base opening questions around these ideas – and also use them in everyday discussion and analysis of texts)

* Dialogue vs Debate (great to use with students before beginning seminar, which can descend into debate with our high schoolers)

Socratic Seminar Lesson Outline

Socratic Seminar Lesson Outline 2


Question Stems for students:


Prep Work:

Inner/Outer & Observation Forms:

Reflection Forms:

Assessment Options:




These are the ideas shared at the February 2015 in-service:


Laying the Groundwork, Building Skills, and Preparing for Socratic Seminar:

What: Developing a discussion using facts, examples, claim, and counterclaim

How: Students get in groups of 4 – discussing a topic; they pass a ball of yarn to each other when they respond using sentence starters.  It forms a “discussion web.”

Why:  Carry on productive dialogue and not spit out disconnected ideas in Seminar

question mark


What: Preview Socratic Seminar text

How: Using text graffiti – portions of text posted around the room, small groups move around writing initial thoughts to each section

Why: Previewing text allows for greater comprehension and interest.

question mark

What: Create higher level thinking questions by adding to annotations and questioning weight in The Things They Carried (figurative and literal)


  • Prepare for Socratic Seminar by adding to original annotations in story packet (new color pen) and create questions
  • Meet with soldier group & add annotations to PP project
  • Review difference between discussion and debate

Why: Appreciate figurative and literal weight carried by soldiers; work with a group; questioning


question mark

What: How does Kipling’s poem, “if” compare to O’Brien’s The Things They Carried?

How: Read and annotate Kipling’s “If” – discuss comparisions.

Why: Discussing both texts will lead to a deeper understanding of the characters.

question mark

What: Is the American Dream sill alive?  Is it achievable for all?


  • Quick-write: Journal: Do you believe in the concept of the American Dream? Explain why or why note.
  • Analyze NBC Brian Williams clip about Camden
  • Read NYT article – annotate
  • Prepare for Socratic Seminar

Why: to understand the framework of motivation, goals, pursuit of happiness in life, which also sets the tone for exploration of themes in Gatsby.



Socratic Seminars:

What: Engage in a Socratic Seminar to analyze text and make connections to outside texts.

How: Read Robin Lakoff’s “You Are What You Say” for prep work.  List to This American Life podcast episode, and discuss evidence of Lakoff’s argument in today’s society.

Why: Practice deeply analyzing text and promote democratic discussion.

question mark

What: Discuss how societal issues affect the way we live and view each other.  Students will demonstrate their understand of societal issues by participating in a Socratic Seminar using current events.


  • Warm-up: choose your 6 best questions from previous class work, rank them, and decide which will be your opening question.
  • Students will use their research, annotated informational texts, and thinglink projects to participate in a Socratic Seminar; outer circle will have one student they watch and grade on performance.

Why: Group discussion is an important skill for higher education and the workplace.

question mark

What: Make a connection between current events and TKAM. Engage in discussion/debate.

How: Annotating current events relating to Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, or other race-related event, and engaging in a Socratic Seminar connecting to Tom Robinson.

Why: Practice making connections between current and “real” life and literature.  Engage in discussion/debate.

question mark

What: Making connections among three types of text (article, short story, TED talk)


  • Socratic Seminar: “How to tell a true war story”
  • Day after Seminar: watch and read TED Talk, “Why Vets Miss War”
  • Homework: Why men love war (abridged version) & ID themes of “How to tell a true war story;” connect themes to “Why Vets;” make additional connections to HW.

Why: Improve students’ ability to analyze text and cite specific textual evidence to support those connections. Also, to help students improve their ability to answer a larger question using text.

question mark

What: How do two authors respond and record the same issues in two different ways? Students will discuss the use of 1st person narratives to approach common themes in a selection of text.

How: Whole-class discussion; brainstorming; close-reading of texts from different genres

  • Socratic Seminar: discuss similarities and effectiveness

Why: Comparing multiple texts allows students to connect themes across a wide span of history and make older works more relatable to young learners.

question mark

What: Describe and compare/contrast aspects of Afghani culture with students’ own cultures.


  • Do now: brainstorm a list of courtship, educational, career, adoption/philosophies depicted in The Kite Runner.
  • Warm-up: compile a list defined by your own culture
  • Turn & Talk: compare and contrast (using Venn diagram) courtship customs
  • Socratic Seminar

Why: Discussing the differences in cultures will lead to a deeper understanding/connection to Afghani culture.


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One thought on “Socratic Seminar

  1. Pingback: Socratic Seminar & The Big Ideas: On Mars, Wonder, Colonialism & Imperialism | BHP English Headquarters

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