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Socratic Seminar

Description 

The Socratic Seminar Performance Task Guide is designed to give students the opportunity to engage in critical thinking and reflective dialogue through participation in the inner and outer circles of a Socratic Seminar.
Socratic Seminars introduce students to collaborative intellectual discussion through which they explore the ideas, evidence base, and issues raised in a text. While in the inner circle, students use inductive reasoning and questioning to deepen their understanding. In the outer circle, students focus on the craft and structure of the seminar. Both roles position students to practice critical thinking, careful listening, and the discipline of grounding points of view in evidence while keeping an open mind to the perspectives and reasoning of others. In college classrooms, students will be expected to engage in text-based discussions, use evidence to support their claims, and both challenge and build upon the ideas of others. In workplace settings, evidence-based thinking and discussion are key to effective problem solving and decision-making.

Opportunities for Student Choice 

Participation in Socratic Seminars allows students to organically choose topics of discussion and formulate their own questions based on interest, readiness, and content. Furthermore, preparation for the seminar requires that students closely read texts that are self-selected or chosen by the teacher.

Authentic Task 

Socratic Seminars closely parallel the conversation that occurs around kitchen tables, in college classrooms, and at many workplaces. Gathering together to discuss and to learn is a key part of social, academic, and professional life. Families, friends, classmates, and colleagues frequently come together to share ideas in an effort to solve problems. Active participation in a Socratic Seminar involves deliberate practice and honing of critical thinking and speaking skills needed in the 21st century workforce: the ability to decide what to believe and what not to believe based on an evidence-based thinking process that values questions rather than answers; effective communication cultivated by listening with intent and speaking with purpose; and the development of new ideas through a synthesis of presented information. In short, the premier attribute of a 21st century thinker amidst the deluge of digital information remains the skill of how to think, not what to think, about a topic.

Opportunities for Exhibition to an Audience 

While the Socratic Seminar may be different from most student performance tasks, opportunities for exhibition still exist. Students can invite members of other classes or the community to participate in the Seminar, in either the inner circle as a co-collaborator, or in the outer circle as one who will give feedback. Seminars can be presented to other classes undertaking study of the same or similar texts and subjects. Students can record, edit, and post Seminars to YouTube or other video-sharing sites. Students can also write reflective pieces about their Socratic Seminar experience that can be shared as any other piece of writing would be.

Downloadable Resources 
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Explore the Socratic Seminar

What is a Socratic Seminar?
Develop an understanding of the purpose and structure of a Socratic Seminar. 

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.W.1

Time To Complete 

1 Day

Socratic Seminar Performance Tasks Rubric

What are the expectations for this performance task?  

Each performance task has a single-point rubric, which lays out the expectations for college-and career-ready performance. This type of rubric allows teachers to provide specific, focused feedback without limiting students’ creativity or putting a ceiling on their...

Research the Issue_Socratic

What do people know, say, and believe about this issue?
Find and analyze written and oral resources that will help you grasp the topic’s key concepts, in addition to deepening your understanding of the range of perspectives about the issue. 

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.W.8

Time To Complete 

1-2 Days

Read Closely_Socratic

What reading strategies do I use to analyze texts?
Create a toolbox of close reading strategies that will help deepen your understanding of the text so that you can ask better questions and develop claims backed by strong textual evidence

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.SL.2
  • CCRA.W.1
  • CCRA.W.4

Time To Complete 

1 Day

Analyze Claims_Socratic

How does an author present and develop claims throughout a text?  
Identify the author’s claims and analyze its development throughout the text.   Discuss evidence presented for each claim during the seminar.  

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.W.1

Time To Complete 

1 Day

Prepare Questions for Discussion_Socratic

What questions do I have concerning the text? How do I create questions that facilitate discussion?
Utilize close reading strategies and notes to develop written questions about the text.  

 

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.SL.1
  • CCRA.W.1

Time To Complete 

1 Day

Prepare and Practice_Socratic

What are the roles and norms that will allow me to effectively participate in a Socratic Seminar?
Identify roles and norms that will allow my classmates and me to effectively conduct a Socratic Seminar.

 

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.R.8
  • CCRA.R.9
  • CCRA.SL.3
  • CCRA.SL.4
  • CCRA.SL.6
  • CCRA.W.1
  • CCRA.W.4
  • CCRA.W.7
  • CCRA.W.8

Time To Complete 

1-2 Days

Cite Evidence_Socratic

How do I use evidence from the text to develop my own claims? 
Analyze the claims and evidence of a given text in order to formulate your own argument.
 

 

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.W.1

Time To Complete 

1 Day

Give and Receive Feedback_Socratic

How can my performance be improved?
Using feedback from a peer and/or teacher, strengthen your inner-circle performance by improving use of evidence, continuing to develop your argument, and addressing counterclaims with care and respect.

 

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.L.1
  • CCRA.L.2
  • CCRA.L.3
  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.SL.3
  • CCRA.SL.4
  • CCRA.SL.6

Time To Complete 

1 Day

Reflection and Goal Setting_Socratic

How can I improve my performance?
Use your partner’s feedback to improve your performance in the inner circle and to help strengthen any claims you are developing in your written work.

 

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.L.1
  • CCRA.L.2
  • CCRA.L.3
  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.SL.3
  • CCRA.SL.4
  • CCRA.SL.6

Time To Complete 

1 Day