In a Socratic seminar, the students take responsibility for leading the conversation, and the teacher acts as a facilitator. Here are some basic teacher and student responsibilities we have culled from our own experience with this format:
Teacher Responsibilities: Arrange the classroom so eye contact between students is possible. Set time limits for each round of the seminar. Initiate the discussion with a question or key point. Let students take control of the discussion. Avoid interjecting or adding your own ideas during the discourse. You may need to briefly intervene to focus students if discussion veers off course, or to encourage quiet students to participate. Keep track of student participation if assessing the seminar. Have students write a reflection after all rounds of the seminar have taken place.
Student Responsibilities: Come to the seminar prepared. Read the text and prepare answers to the essential questions. Refer to the text often during the discussion. Back up your opinions with evidence from the text. Feel free to bring in additional resources. This is a conversation. It’s not a test, so there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. The way to do well is to participate. Ask questions and add comments. But be sure you are on-topic and on-task. Agree or disagree with classmates in a civilized manner. Respect their opinions. Talk to your classmates. Use their names and make eye contact. Don’t just talk to the teacher. Take notes and refer to them in the discussion. This is a discussion, so there is no need to raise your hand. However, respect the speaker by listening to and allowing that person to finish before adding your thoughts. But take notes so you don’t forget what you want to say!