The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE TEACHERS

The Situation

Your students find it difficult to express theyr ideas on paper.

The Solution

A Socratic Circle, or seminar, allows students to freely discuss and interrogate the ideas that they have developed about a text in an open and safe space.

Sometimes, it is the case, that students have excellent oral comprehension, but are unable to mimic this understanding on paper. Should students be marked down for this inability to process reading skills in a written format. Of course not, as they are two separate skills.

There is a number of nuances to the Socratic Circle and you are free to make adjustments where you see fit. Here is a baseline model for how you might run the activity:

  1. Choose a text that you can complete a close reading of. For example, if you are completing a novel study, choose a short section to focus on. This will give the discussions focus.
  2. Students need time to prepare. Provide students with time to develop notes about specific sections of the text. That is, they may have completed a close reading with annotations.
  3. Organise the desks in the class into two circles: One inner and one outer circle. Students wi
  4. Establish the rules of the circle. For example, no interruptions and specific how they might respectfully disagree with each other. Throw the question towards students and ask them to develop their own rules for the circle.
  5. Assign yourself a table in the inner circle. When you are ready, ask assigned questions one at a time and allow students to contribute. They are free to discuss as much as they like. Once the answers and responded have either dried up or the answers have digressed too much than you can move onto a new question.
  6. While students are listening in the outer group, they should be taking notes to prepare for their turn.
  7. Once you have gone through all of your questions, rotate the groups and repeat the process. Do this until all teams have participated in the circle.
  8. At the end of the seminar, students should reflect on the process:
    1. What evidence do you have that others were actively listening?
    2. What questions or discussion points did you find most engaging?
    3. What would you do differently in the next seminar?

Here is a video of a socratic circle being conducted in the classroom, albeit without an outer circle:

Here is another example:

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