Socratic Seminar Background



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Socratic Seminar

Background


The Socratic method of teaching is based on Socrates' theory that it is more important for students to think for themselves than to merely have their heads filled with "right" answers. Therefore, he regularly engaged his pupils in dialogues by responding to their questions with questions, instead of answers. This process encourages divergent thinking rather than convergent.

You will be given opportunities to "examine" a common piece of text, whether it is in the form of a primary document, secondary document, poem, map, or piece of music. After reading the common text "like a love letter", open-ended questions are posed and a discussion ensues.

Open-ended questions allow you to think critically, analyze multiple meanings in text, and express ideas with clarity and confidence. After all, a certain degree of emotional safety is felt by participants when they understand that this format is based on dialogue and not discussion/debate.

Dialogue is exploratory and involves the suspension of biases and prejudices. Discussion/debate is a transfer of information designed to win an argument and bring closure. Americans are great at discussion/debate. We do not dialogue well. However, once teachers and students learn to dialogue, they find that the ability to ask meaningful questions that stimulate thoughtful interchanges of ideas is more important than "the answer."

Participants in a Socratic Seminar respond to one another with respect by carefully listening instead of interrupting. Students are encouraged to "paraphrase" essential elements of another's ideas before responding, either in support of or in disagreement. Members of the dialogue look each other in the eyes and use each other names. This simple act of socialization reinforces appropriate behaviors and promotes team building.

  Pre-Seminar Question-Writing:


Before you come to a Socratic Seminar class,  please read the assigned text and write at least two questions in each of the following categories:

WORLD CONNECTION QUESTION:


        Write a question connecting the text to the real world. 

        Example:  If you were starting a new state, would you follow the advice of Machiavelli?


CLOSE-ENDED QUESTION:


        Write a question about the text that will help everyone in the
class come to an agreement about events or characters in the text. This
question usually has a "correct" answer. THESE ARE THE WEAKEST SS Q’S!!!

         Example:  When was Machiavelli writing this?

OPEN-ENDED QUESTION:
         Write an insightful question about the text that will require proof
and group discussion and "construction of logic" to discover or explore the
answer to the question.

          Example: What was Machiavelli’s goal in writing “The Prince?”


UNIVERSAL THEME/ CORE QUESTION:


          Write a question dealing with a theme(s) of the text that will
encourage group discussion about the universality of the text.

           Example: After reading “The Prince,”, can you pick out its Renaissance elements?

 LITERARY ANALYSIS QUESTION:

Write a question dealing with HOW an author chose to compose a literary piece.  How did the author manipulate point of view, characterization, poetic form, archetypal hero patterns, for example?

          Example: Why did Machiavelli choose the style of writing he did?

Guidelines for Participants in a Socratic Seminar

1.      Refer to the text when needed during the discussion. A seminar is not a test of memory. You are not "learning a subject"; your goal is to understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in the text.

2.      Do not participate if you are not prepared. A seminar should not be a bull session.

3.      Do not stay confused; ask for clarification.

4.      Stick to the point currently under discussion; make notes about ideas you want to come back to.

5.      Don't raise hands; take turns speaking.

6.      Listen carefully.

7. Speak up so that all can hear you.

8. Talk to each other, not the leader or teacher.

9. Discuss ideas rather than each other's opinions.

10. You are responsible for the seminar, even if you don't know it or admit it.



Expectations of Participants in a Socratic Seminar

When I am evaluating your Socratic Seminar participation, I ask the following questions about participants. Did they….

Speak loudly and clearly?
Cite reasons and evidence for their statements?
Use the text to find support?
Listen to others respectfully?
Stick with the subject?
Talk to each other, not just to the leader?
Paraphrase accurately?
Ask for help to clear up confusion?
Support each other?
Avoid hostile exchanges? Question others in a civil manner?
Seem prepared?



Socratic Seminar:  A Guide to your Grade

  ‘A’ Level Participant


Participant offers enough solid analysis, without prompting, to move the conversation forward Participant, through h/s comments, demonstrates a deep knowledge of the text and the question Participant has come to the seminar prepared, with notes and a marked/annotated text   Participant, through h/s comments, shows that she is actively listening to others Participant offers clarification and/or follow-up that extends conversation Participant’s remarks often refer back to specific parts of the text.

  ‘B’ Level Participant

Participant offers solid analysis without prompting Through comments, participant demonstrates a good knowledge of the text and the question Participant has come to the seminar prepared, with notes and a marked/annotated text Participant shows that h/s is actively listening and offers clarification and/or follow-up

  ‘C’ Level Participant

Participant offers some analysis, but needs prompting from the seminar leader Through comments, participant demonstrates a general knowledge of the text and question    Participant is less prepared, with few notes and no marked/annotated text Participant is actively listening to others, but does not offer clarification and/or follow-up to others’ comments Participant relies more upon his or her opinion, and less on the text to drive her comments  

  ‘D’ or ‘F’ Level Participant

Participant offers little commentary Participant comes to the seminar ill-prepared with little understanding of the text or question    Participant does not listen to others, offers no commentary to further the discussion     Participant distracts the group by interrupting other speakers or by offering off topic questions and comments.     Participant ignores the discussion and its participants


Socratic Seminar:  Participant Rubric

Score

Criteria

10--A

Participant must demonstrate more than two of the following & participate multiple times:

--Use the text to support an argument/question

--Ask a thought-provoking analysis drawing the circle to a particular text reference

--Re-direct or Re-start the discussion with a thought-provoking question

--Connects the text to the specific style of writing

-- Offers specific and accurate historical context or analysis directly related to the text




9--A-

Participant must demonstrate two of the criteria above, and participate two times


8--B

Participant must meet one of the above criteria, but may contributes multiple times

OR

Participant offers analysis without specific text support while contributing multiple times




7--C

Participant gives opinions with little evidence or substance while speaking two or more times


6--D

Participant gives opinions with little evidence or substance while speaking once


0-5--F

--Participant does not participate

--Participant gets discussion off task or is rude to others





Socratic Seminar:  Teacher Grading Sheet


Student Name:
Positive Discussion Behaviors

___________Use the text to support an argument/question


___________Brings up thought-provoking analysis drawing the circle to a particular text reference
___________Offers analysis without specific text support
___________Offers specific and accurate historical context or analysis related to the text
___________Re-direct or Re-start the discussion with a thought-provoking question
___________ Connects the text to the specific style of writing
___________ Participation-Spoke, but no high-level contribution
Negative Discussion Behaviors
___________attacks a person instead of an idea (through their voice, words, or body “talk”)
___________ talks over someone in an effort to force their view through

___________ Has bad posture that encourages attention and/or does not pay attention


Comments:

Total Positive____ and Negative ____

Student Name:
Positive Discussion Behaviors

___________Use the text to support an argument/question


___________Brings up thought-provoking analysis drawing the circle to a particular text reference
___________Offers analysis without specific text support
___________Offers specific and accurate historical context or analysis related to the text
___________Re-direct or Re-start the discussion with a thought-provoking question
___________ Connects the text to the specific style of writing
___________ Participation-Spoke, but no high-level contribution
Negative Discussion Behaviors
___________attacks a person instead of an idea (through their voice, words, or body “talk”)
___________ talks over someone in an effort to force their view through

___________ Has bad posture that encourages attention and/or does not pay attention


Comments:

Total Positive____ and Negative ____





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