Socratic Seminar Un-conference

Monday, November 12, 2018

Shared Google Drive FOLDER: https://tinyurl.com/ycol8qn9

Here's our loose agenda for this morning:

  • examples of great Socratic Seminar texts
  • management strategies & tips
  • grading & feedback for Seminars
  • anchor charts and/or process for chart creation
  • communication with the community

#1: What makes a Seminar text "great?"

What are some texts or text sources that you've found to be great for seminars?

#2 What strategies do you use to manage Seminars?

  • non-verbal signals for agree with or disagree with
  • explaining that Socratic is not just for agreeing/disagreeing (ex: "The way I'm seeing it...")
  • have a discussion about the difference between a debate and Socratic Seminar


How do we get kids to talk who are hesitant?

  • each voice is helpful to help others think; possibly reference saying/belief from the Jewish culture about a jewel, how every time we turn it, it reflects life differently
  • different ways to approach this; invite others in, "Do you have something to say?"
  • sometimes when kids don't speak, they have more to say, could show through writing/reflection
  • talking chips
  • students know the questions ahead of the seminar, so can prepare answers and support for answers
  • non-verbal: sit with your thumb up if you have something to say but haven't been able to jump in; if you've shared twice, your job is to find people with their thumbs up to invite in



Other ideas:


  • consider moving to a different space (outside of your classroom) for seminars; it might feel different
  • using name tents, "Mr. ________," "Ms. ______________"
  • have an "outer circle" form to record what you're seeing while watching the inner circle from Susie/History Matters (add link later)
  • "hot seat" in the inner circle - opportunity for outer circle to come to inner circle to make a comment
  • using visual, like yellow/red chips to help kids monitor how much they're talking, when they need to let others talk
  • VISUAL: Circle showing who sat where, then lines to show who was talking


Recipe / Secret Ingredients for s Seminar:


  1. Authenticity / Depth
  2. Student-led
  3. Open-ended Questioning / lends to many opinions
  4. Thoughts can be supported with evidence, reasoning




  • students may focus on agree/disagree, but over time they know how to respond differently
  • if students have the prior experience, can build on that
  • if students haven't experienced Socratic before, teach them how to annotate, respond
  • what would prerequisites be? experience with ambiguous texts, annotating texts, citing evidence, identifying themes, social skills (ex: Aesop's Fables, fairy tales); experience with these skills, separately if needed, so that we can bring them all together in upper grades
  • is it okay to paraphrase/reframe as a teacher/facilitator? Try not to be involved; okay to stop and focus on something like reframing, inviting others in; or VIDEO and reflect afterward, another day, to not interrupt the actual seminar

#3 How do we "grade" seminars & share feedback?

Big picture

Our Assessment Ideas:

  • VIDEORECORD the seminar, watch it together or individually afterward and talk about what we notice in terms of 1.) process AND 2.) content
  • Use of tallies in different categories (like chart above)
  • Open-ended reflections--individual and group questions - Karla & Jodie shared examples - teacher follows-up individually as needed after reading reflections / observing in a seminar
  • IDEA: take the Fairfax Rubric and adjust/add MN standards that align
  • IDEA: create a common rubric for 194; same standards, maybe options for deeper complexity/accelerated literacy standards for classes ready for that? Possibly a Google Sheet with a tab for each grade level (3, 4, 5)

#4 How do you create Seminar anchor charts with your students?

  • _________________________
  • _________________________
  • _________________________
  • _________________________

#5 How do you share Seminar performance/feedback with families?

Big picture
  • VIDEORECORD and have students and/or families reflect afterward
  • assign a follow-up activity that involves talking to someone at home (Jodie shared example of political ad seminar; afterward, students went home and interviewed someone 18-years or older, then that adult writes their thoughts/discussion)

Closure / Action Steps

What's next? What support do you need from us?

  • Create a common rubric for Socratic Seminar with options for greater complexity? - additional half-day for this group to come up with that rubric

Please take this survey to help us know your feedback. CEU's attached at the end. Thank you!