Guidelines for Teachers
Feel free to adapt this process and/or look online for other ways of running Socratic Seminars.
If your group is too large, you can have two seminars with two facilitators or you can use the fishbowl technique (especially if students are nervous about expressing ideas).
Timing: Good Socratic seminars last anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes depending on the topic, the students and how the discussion is going.
In Socratic Seminars, the teacher does not lead the discussion. The discussion comes from the students. You can start them off by reminding them of the guidelines and, if you are assessing them, reminding them of how they will be assessed. Other than that, it’s better if you just say, “Starting now...” and then let them go. If you sense they are going off track for too long, just speak as a participant and refocus them with a good question or quote.
Many groups choose to limit the amount of individual comments until every student has spoken at least once or twice. We generally limit participants to 2 comments each unless they are asking another student a question to draw them out, If a student speaks too often, let them know. If a student breaks a rule (i.e. insults), it’s your job to refocus and remind. Other than that, the students lead the discussion while you assess and/or participate.
NOTE: If your group is new to this type of discussion, it can be useful to have students just raise their hand to signal that they want to speak. You can note their names and then just point at the next speaker (rather than calling on people) to ensure everyone gets to speak.
Guidelines for Participants (you can add your own)
- Listen to and build on the comments of other participants.
- Address the group OR the person you are responding to.
- Do not raise your hand to speak. Wait for a space.
- Always refer to the texts or to the specific points or questions another student raises.
- When you disagree, do so respectfully and based on evidence.
- Part of the grading is based on your use of evidence/examples.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD SENTENCE FRAMES IF YOU WANT HELP WITH THE SPEAKING PART. This is a word document so you can edit it for your classes or for yourself as participants.