A Peek Into the Socratic Seminar


The Socratic Seminar is often thought of as a discussion tool–a way to foster student dialogue around important topics–much like its namesake, Socrates, instigated  thought and dialogue around the issues of his day. While true, this statement leaves much unsaid. In reality, the classroom Socratic Seminar, when well-planned and executed, fosters important reading and comprehension skills, helps students build and communicate evidence-based arguments, all in addition to helping students deeply consider the complexities of the topic at hand.

IMG_0238Karl Knerr, sixth grade language arts teacher at Fall Creek Intermediate School, describes how the process unfolds in his class: “Students read articles closely, identify and underline the author’s claim/central idea of the text, highlight textual evidence that supports the claim, and mark the text.  Next, they create 2-3 good interpretive questions that they will use during the discussion (these should also be supported with textual evidence).”

IMG_0225When discussion day arrives, students have already digested the articles and formed questions  that will guide discussion. . They have a basic understanding of the broad issue/topic addressed (albeit still from only their own perspective). By this time in the school year, Mr. Knerr’s students know what is expected of them during a Socratic Seminar. They’ve learned about sensitivity to other points of view, about the importance of listening as well as speaking, and about giving evidence to support their claims. IMG_0216In observing a recent Socratic Seminar in Mr. Knerr’s class, HSE21 Shorts was amazed at the natural ebb and flow of the conversation amongst these eleven- and twelve-year-olds, and at how politely and intently they listened to their peers, even to the point of purposefully creating space in the conversation for the quieter students to be heard.

“What I’ve seen from our Socratic discussions,” remarked Mr. Knerr,  “is a deeper understanding about ideas and values in the text through different points-of-view. Students question and examine issues related to what they’ve read, and connect to the Indiana Academic standards we are currently studying.  We constantly analyze, interpret, listen, and participate with our peers to gain knowledge.  Students think out loud and share ideas openly while exploring deeper issues in the text.  They often make great connections between the texts as well.”

13 thoughts on “A Peek Into the Socratic Seminar

  1. Without those inspiring stories of the otters will to survive in the face of terror, I would have never recognized their beautiful traits


  2. The sun is dull compared to how lot she was. I remember that one time I sat on a sink and almost broke it and then she came to the rescue! What would I do without her!


Comments are closed.