After students have had a chance to discuss the text with each other, I invite them to re-write their original answer to the day’s guiding question. The first time they re-write, I conduct a mini-lesson on using academic verbs and sentence starters. I write an example to show them what I want them to do (also, so they will have a guide in their notebook for reference). I have an anchor chart of sentence stems so students are always cognizant of how to write when responding to text. Additionally, students highlight the verbs and sentence starters in their re-written response.
While socratic seminars are great for encouraging students to think critically, it has also allowed me to see specific areas where their writing needs improvement. For example, many of my students struggle with providing sufficient explanation of how their evidence supports their opinion. Many were using very lengthy quotes. I use these instances to teach mini-lessons based on what the majority of my students need. I use student work to show the misconceptions and exemplars. I’ve noticed that student writing has slowly started to improve!
While the heart of the socratic seminar is the discussion, as your students become more acquainted with socratic seminars, you can give them more responsibility. For instance, I have one class that is ready to lead the seminar on their own. I will break the class into small groups, have all students generate some open-ended questions from the text, and then have students facilitate the discussion. It’s important to assess where your students are in the socratic seminar process. I have classes that need a great deal of scaffolding and some that are pretty much self-sufficient.
If you have not tried socratic seminars in your classroom, I urge you to do so! Students really thrive when they are at the center of their learning!
Additional Resources I use for the socratic seminar: