Whitesburg Instructional Spotlight

Week of November 16, 2015

Socratic Seminars.....a note from Mrs. Seeley

In Socratic Seminars, students develop and practice discussion skills. In a typical Socratic Seminar, an inner circle of 4-6 students discuss texts and use textual evidence to make connections and ask thought-provoking questions. Students in the outer circle critique and score the discussion. Students are given points whenever they make constructive contributions to the discussion, such as ask thought provoking questions, use textual evidence, or play Devil's Advocate. They lose points if they exhibit disrespectful behaviors, such as interrupting their teammates, making insults, or are distracting.

After the seminar students are given evaluation cards where they are asked to reflect on the discussion and to score themselves...what they did best and what can be improved. They are also asked to point out strengths ("I liked what ______said") and weaknesses of their classmates and to discuss this with them.

I love Socratic Seminars. I recommend preparing the students beforehand with a set of questions for them to discuss and to go over the rules. I have also conducted end of unit seminars for the students to reflect on what we read. They are a great tool and the more that students participate in the seminars the better they become at classroom discussion. One important note for a positive seminar: The teacher's role is just as a guide. Allow students to conduct the seminar and choose one in each group to act as Moderator.

Students can:

Prepare for discussions

Use a variety of discussion skills

Ask and answer deep questions

Build on and refute others’ ideas

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1a Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1b Follow rules for collegial discussions and decisionmaking, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1c Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1d Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.

Socratic Circle

Progress Monitoring with Mrs. Thomas

When I walked into Mrs. Thomas' room, I could immediately feel that all of her students were on point. Wow! Students were working together to discuss and define important vocabulary words from the social studies text. But, more importantly, I saw Mrs. Thomas working at her small group table. One-by-one, students would make their way over to Ms. Thomas to read to her. When I asked one of the other students what she was doing, the other student could tell me exactly. He knew that every student got a turn to sit with Mrs. Thomas to read a fluency passage. Way to go Mrs. Thomas!
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Small Group with Mrs. Spain

I can never tire of watching Mrs. Spain work her magic with her small group! As I entered the room, I could see other students at their centers, most of them on task (the ones that weren't got a reminder from the teacher). I walked in during the middle of one small group, but within minutes the group changed. Almost effortlessly, Mrs. Spain called the next group to her table and began her work. I know going to Mrs. Spain's table is a treat for her kiddos--because I see their faces when their names finally get called. Thank you Mrs. Spain!
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As a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment), my goal is to one day become an instructional leader of a school. Having been out of the classroom for the past thirteen years working as a school counselor, I have had the opportunity to develop many professional skills I use on a daily basis. However, as a professional educator, I also know there are areas I need to improve. My goal this year is to strengthen my knowledge of effective instructional strategies. There is no better way to do this than to spend time in your classrooms! Each week when I visit, my goal is to take pictures and spotlight the instruction happening at Whitesburg. Oh--and if you have something great going on (or know a teacher-neighbor who is), let me know so I don't miss it! While I'm learning, I hope this small spotlight will also provide a way for our faculty to know what great things are happening every day at our school!
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