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F2 Socratic Seminar for Foundations II Classes



Foundations II                        Art of Argument Unit                                  P.Lee-Muratori

  Socratic Seminar Steps


CC.9-10.R.I.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

CC.9-10.R.I.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details.


CC.9-10.SL.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CC.9-10.SL.1.a  Come to discussions prepared, having read/viewed and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

  Steps:  Preparation for the Seminar:

1.     Form groups of 4-5 for brainstorming ideas in response to film, which is a “text.”

2.     Choose a group leader who is a good listener.

3.     Choose a group secretary who is organized and will take notes on main points the group wants recorded.

4.     Brainstorm an open-ended question that the seminar will attempt to answer.

5.     Combine groups so that class is separated into two/three groups of 10-12 students. 

6.     Agree on an open-ended question (Examples:  How doe we decide what we believe?, How do we judge the value of evidence presented as part of an argument/text/documentary film?  How do we tell the difference between fact and opinion?)

7.     Take notes on facts, examples, statistics, articles, and court documents that will help you answer the question.  You do this independently.

8.     Have the seminar

  The Seminar Itself:

1. Students sit in a circle. Only the students in the circle participate in the dialogue.

2. The leader poses an open-ended question related to the unit of study to initiate dialogue.

3. Students begin to respond to the question supporting their answers with examples from the text/notes/specific experience.

4. Students should also paraphrase other students for clarification and ask additional questions to continue deeper exploration.

5.  Focus on the discussion, not on what you will say when it’s “your turn.” 

6.  Don’t raise hands; watch each other and take turns speaking.

7.  Stick to the point currently under discussion; make notes about ideas you might want to come back to later or in another discussion.

8.  Talk to each other, not just to the leader or the teacher

9.  Speak up so that all can hear.

10.  If you get confused, speak up and ask for clarification.  The leader will help you with this—it is his/her job.

  Follow Up:

1.  Students should discuss their feelings regarding the process in writing or orally.

2.  Brainstorm ways the activity could be more effective.           

                                Points to Consider:

1.  The leader acts as a facilitator to remind students of the dialogue guidelines, to direct them back to the topic, or to offer a personal viewpoint about a text or other source material.

2.  Seminars should only last about 20 minutes per group.

3.  Silence is not to be feared.  You could be thinking.  Thinking is good.

4.  You will NOT be graded on the number of times you speak.  You will be graded on how you scaffold (raise the level of challenge within the question), listen and respond to others, reason, remain focused, and summarize what has been said and move the conversation forward, rather than just repeating things others have said.

                                               Socratic Seminar Analytic Rubric: 







Demonstrates respect for the learning process; has patience with different opinions and complexity; shows initiative by asking others for clarification: brings others into the conversation, moves the conversation forward; speaks to all of the participants; avoids talking too much.

Generally shows composure but may display impatience with contradictory or confusing ideas; comments, but does not necessarily encourage others to participate; may tend to address only the teacher or get into debates.

Participates and expresses a belief that his/her ideas are important in understanding the text; may make insightful comments but is either too forceful or too shy and does not contribute to the progress of the conversation; tends to debate, not dialogue.

Displays little respect for the learning process; argumentative; takes advantage of minor distractions; uses inappropriate language; speaks to individuals rather than ideas; arrives unprepared without notes, pencil/pen or perhaps even without the text.







Understands question before answering; cites evidence from text; expresses thoughts in complete sentences; move conversation forward; makes connections between ideas; resolves apparent contradictory ideas; considers others’ viewpoints, not only his/her own; avoids bad logic.

Responds to questions voluntarily; comments show an appreciation for the text but not an appreciation for the subtler points within it; comments are logical but not connected to other speakers; ideas interesting enough that others respond to them.

Responds to questions but may have to be called upon by others; has read the text but not put much effort into preparing questions and ideas for the seminar; comments take details into account but may not flow logically in conversation.

Extremely reluctant to participate even when called upon; comments illogical and meaningless; may mumble or express incomplete ideas; little or no account taken of previous comments or important ideas in the text.


Pays attention to details; writes down questions; responses take into account all participants; demonstrates that he/she has kept up; points out faulty logic respectfully; overcomes distractions.

Generally pays attention and responds thoughtfully to ideas and questions of other participants and the leader; absorption in own ideas may distract the participant from the ideas of others.

Appears to find some ideas unimportant while responding to others; may have to have questions or confusions repeated due to inattention; takes few notes during the seminar in response to ideas and comments.

Appears uninvolved in the seminar; comments display complete misinterpretation of questions or comments of other participants.


Thoroughly familiar with the text; has notations and questions in the margins; key words, phrases, and ideas are highlighted;  possible contradictions identified; pronounces words correctly.

Has read/viewed the text and comes with some ideas from it but these may not be written out in advance;  good understanding of the vocabulary but may mispronounce some new or foreign words.

Appears to have read/viewed or skimmed the text but has not marked the text or made meaningful notes or questions; shows difficulty with vocabulary; mispronounces important words; key concepts misunderstood; little evidence of serious reflection prior to the seminar.

Student is unprepared for the seminar; important words, phrases, ideas in the text are unfamiliar; no notes or questions marked in the text; no attempt made to get help with difficult material.