Socratic Seminars in Grade School
The following is a definition of the Socratic seminar from Elfie Israel:
The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions. Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others. They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly.It is no wonder that one of the first things that my son tells me about this seminar is that they get to address each other with Mr. or Ms., and their last names. And my son, Mr. de Dios, sits with tables and chairs arranged for some real discussion.
|Photo courtesy of Mason Crest Elementary School principal Brian Butler|
|Photos courtesy of Mason Crest Elementary School principal Brian Butler|
Robitaille and Maldonado, in their close examination of the Socratic seminar, find that a proper climate is indeed required for questioning and discussion in an elementary classroom:
The teachers in the current study unanimously agreed that creating an environment of respect and rapport and creating a culture for learning were prerequisites and co-requisites to being able to engage students in learning and engage students with each other in meaningful, authentic, and genuine content-based high-level discussion driven by higher-order questions.Pleasantly surprising, this point seems very clear to my son. He appreciates the conditions necessary for an effective implementation of a Socratic seminar. It can only work with an environment of respect and rapport plus a topic that is purposeful, engaging and relevant. It is evident that my son's school does know how to implement questioning and discussion techniques inside the classroom.