Socratic Seminar

Socratic Seminar
Pre-Seminar Question Writing:
 Close-Ended Question:
Write a question about the text that will help everyone come to an agreement about
events or characters in the text. This question usually has a “correct” answer. You
can answer the question by looking one place in the text. These are literal questions.
Tasks: Complete, Match, Name, Observe, Define,
Describe, Identify, List, Recite, Select, Scan
Example: What happened to Hester Prynne’s husband so that she was left alone in
Boston without a family? (Based on The Scarlet Letter).
 Open-Ended Question:
Write an insightful question about the text that will require proof and group
discussion and “construction of logic” to discover or explore the answer to the
question. These questions can be both literal and abstract. These questions require
people to look many places in the text in order to construct an answer.
Tasks: Compare, Contrast, Classify, Sort, Distinguish, Explain, Infer, Sequence, Analyze,
Synthesize, Make Analogies, Reason
Example: Why did Huck Finn decide to destroy the letter he wrote to turn in Jim at
the conclusion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? And how did this signal a
change in both characters?
 World Connection Question:
Write a question connecting the text to the real world.
Example: If you were given only 24 hours to pack your most precious belongings in
a back pack and to get ready to leave your home town, what might you pack and
why? (Based on Night).
 Universal Theme/Core Question:
Write a question dealing with a theme(s) of the text that will encourage a group
discussion about the universality of the text. OOOh, here is thing two, abstract…but
still based on the literal, concrete details of the text.
Starters: Evaluate, Generalize, Imagine, Judge, Predict, Speculate, If/Then, Apply a principle,
Hypothesize, Forecast, Idealize.
Example: In what way is the wind in Didion’s “The Santa Ana” a metaphor for the
human condition? After reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, what are the
elements of the literature that make it romantic as opposed to realistic?
 Style Question:
Write a question dealing with HOW an author chose to compose a literary piece. How
did the author manipulate point of view, characterization, poetic form, archetypal
hero patterns? What rhetorical devices, syntax, or methods of development and
organization was used?
Example: In “On WW II” how does the author use narrative distance to convey his
view of patriotism?
Guidelines for Participants in a Socratic Seminar:
Socratic Seminar
Refer to the text when needed during the discussion.
It’s OK to “pass” when asked to contribute.
Do not stay confused; ask for clarification.
Stick to the point currently under discussion; make notes about ideas you want to
come back to.
Don’t raise hands; take turns speaking. Do not dominate the discussion; call on
others for their opinion.
Listen carefully
Speak up so that all can hear you.
Discuss ideas rather than each other’s opinions.
You are responsible for the seminar.
Socratic Seminar is characterized by:
 suspending judgment
 examining our own work without defensiveness
 exposing our reasoning and looking for limits to it
 communicating our underlying assumptions
 exploring viewpoints more broadly and deeply
 being open to disconfirming data
 approaching someone who sees a problem differently not as an adversary, but as
a colleague in common pursuit of a better solution.