Socratic Seminar and Blabbering

January 27, 2009

So I gave this a shot yesterday (and was supposed to have one more today, but we got snow/ice!!!) and I was REALLY nervous about it.  I have pretty big classes of sophomores and I was concerned that it would be really hard for them.  While I must admit that it was perhaps out of the grasp of a few per class, the overall response was really positive. 

I even had a wonderful moment where one of my students was not just quoting stuff we had read and discussed in class, but RELATING it to how she felt after.  They were assigned to evaluate excerpts from “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” from Martin Luther King, Jr.   Then, she connected in SOCRATES and Walt Whitman. 

I’m so pleased that I am at least helping some students in pointing things out and helping increase their understanding of ideas.  I’m really coming to realize the idea that you simply cannot please everyone. Obviously this is something I’ve always known, but in my second semester, I’m really internalizing/accepting the concept in a different way. 

*I should note that I did not follow the traditional route for the seminar.  The inner circle had 20 minutes, then the outer circle traded places, I produced a new question not quite addressed by the former, and they were given about 10 minutes.  I was not strict on the time. If students were still engaged in the dialogue, I let them continue until the conversation ended more naturally.  Next time, I think now that they have all had a chance to participate, I will use the traditional style and the outer circle will be assigned to evaluate and present their thoughts on the dialogue after the inner circle has finished. 

I would like to add that my rowdiest bunch seemed exhausted afterwords.  They were quiet and not even attempting to stand by the door or chit chat at the end of class.  This, to me, is a great sign!  Instead of me doing all of the work, they had to do it and all that thinking, etc WORE THEM OUT!!!  While I generally subscribe to the simpler “Socratic method” of teaching by questioning and guiding, I find that sometimes this makes me feeling like I am “pulling teeth” in order to get them to participate.  I am not discrediting this method, but it was nice for a change of pace to hold the students more accountable for their own learning.  



2 Responses to “Socratic Seminar and Blabbering”

  1. student Says:

    As a student, I really hated the socratic seminar. Especially, when I was in the inner circle. Not *all* students like to talk. Some are shy. And some teachers don’t give a care if they are shy. And still give them a 50. Even when they tried to speak. But their comment wasn’t very good. I think they should allow dictionaries in the socratic seminar. Cause some people use soo many hard words.

  2. mrsfollis2 Says:

    I can COMPLETELY understand how you feel! In high school and even in college, I remember wanting to contribute to group discussions but when I was ready to talk and considering raising my hand I got SO nervous… My heart would start beating too fast and IF I went ahead and raised my hand, my voice was shaky (yeah, I sounded like I might cry) and I hated it! And many teachers and professors don’t understand this – they demand constant interaction. I feel that in my classroom, I have been trying to find a balance between demanding participation and allowing for shy students to act as “sponges” and listen to other students. I just want you to understand that it’s important to try to get over this, but I know PERSONALLY how hard it is, and I still haven’t completely overcome it!

    We will be having another seminar in a week or two, and I hope that you will feel more comfortable since you now know how to prepare. If you have questions, PLEASE ask me!!! Also, if you don’t understand something in the discussion (including a word), ask your classmates! I’m sure you are not the only one who has trouble understanding some of the words! Good Luck! 🙂

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