Question Detail

What are people's experiences using Socratic Seminar with high school classes that are not AP or Honors level? When the class is large and has discipline issues, frequent absenteeism, and kids who don' t really want to read, does this method work?

Oct 5, 2014 3:07am

Socratic Seminar

  • English Language Arts
  • 11
  • Assessment / Behavior / Engagement


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    • Oct 8, 2014 10:22pm

      I've done Socratic Seminars with classes up to 30, with grades 5 and up, and students of all abilities. For details and materials, check this out:

      • Oct 11, 2014 11:13pm

        I have 6th graders [10 & 11-year-olds] in a middle school setting [5 classes - 2 cores LA/SS+ 1 singleton LA - maximum of 32 students + rotating schedule]

        First year using Socratic circles

        Biggest hurdle was setting up classroom - we now do it on Wednesday because I can set up the room during lunch & keep it for both periods

        Using several of the Teaching Channel videos I viewed over the summer, I settled on 10 students in the center with two students as co-pilots - center circle sits at desks, while co-pilots are in chairs, with whiteboards being used as clipboards

        Only center circle participates in discussion, but co-pilots may pass fwd notes to help with discussion

        5-10 minute discussion, then 'Triad Talk' students in group talk about what just happened in circle/ jot down ideas + discuss next essential question - 'Triad Twist' where new student comes into circle for discussion

        We have used this for
        'Otzi - Ice Man Murder Scenarios'

        • Oct 13, 2014 9:31pm

          Anyone can participate in a Socratic Seminar! I've done them with elementary and middle school students, so high school students, regardless of their AP status, should be able to partake. In fact, it could encourage reading because they will be held accountable in an authentic way. What types of things are you reading? How are you introducing the texts and making them accessible for all students?

          • Oct 13, 2014 9:34pm

            Some ways you can scaffold a Socratic Seminar:
            - have an inner and outer circle (inner circle talks, outer circle takes notes over their discussion - then the group switches)
            - stick a post-it note to students' desks when you need them to talk more (or have a student do this for you)
            - have a guide for them to follow with pre, during, and post-Socratic seminar activities (I always have a question to prime their brain so they'll have something to share, then I have them take notes over what their friends say, then I have them reflect and rate themselves)
            - create norms for discussion - how many times students should speak minimally, ask each other questions, say it once and say it well, etc.