• How to Teach a Socratic Circle:  A Humanizing Experience

    An Online Course for Teachers

    Part 1: Introduction to Socratic Circles


    This course is appropriate for educators of K-12 students. The course will encompass research, rationale and basic implementation of a lesson using The Socratic Seminar Method. Using relevant websites, educators will be introduced to the idea of The Socratic Circle. Educators will implement and lead one activity with their students using The Socratic Circle. *Please note that “seminar” and “circle” are used interchangeably and are synonymous.


    Socratic Circles support student learning through collaboration, discussion, and evidentiary support. Critical thinking builds upon student ideas in respectful conversation, which in turn develops and fosters a deeper understanding and makes for an authentic learning environment.

    Course Goals:

    1.      The learner will develop a basic understanding of what a Socratic Circle looks like in a collaborative environment.

    2.      The learner will utilize a lesson plan from the Paideia Website to implement in the classroom.

    3.      The learner will contribute to an online discussion using Nimbus.


    Course Requirements

    The course will require teachers to complete a series of activities that results in the implementation of a Socratic Circle.  The time required to complete the course is approximately 3 hours.  Teachers will earn 3 professional development credits that can be applied to the 20 hour professional development requirement.  Remember to create a Professional Growth Plan in iObservation that will connect with the course requirements. Course participants will read articles related to Socratic Circles, watch videos, participate in a Nimbus discussion, and implement a lesson.  Following the implementation of the lesson, teachers will answer reflection questions and submit their answers to onlinelearning@voorhees.k12.nj.us to earn a badge and the 3 hours of professional development credits. 

    *Teachers who complete the optional session #4 embedded in the course will receive 2 additional professional development hours. 


    Sessions Introduction and Overview


    Session 1: 

    During this session, the learner will view introductory videos and contribute to an online discussion using NIMBUS.

    Session 2:

    During this session the learner will research rationale and elements of a Socratic Circle by reading the following short articles.

    Session 3:

    During this session, the learner will choose one lesson plan from the Paideia website and try it in their classroom.

    Optional Session 4:  

    During this session, the learner will use Go Pro (or alternative video camera) to create a video of the class implementing a Socratic Circle and post it on NIMBUS and the learner’s own website.



    Session 1:

    Objective:  During this activity, you will be introduced to the basic structure and rationale for the Socratic Seminar instruction model.


    1.    View Introduction to Socratic Seminar a video produced by Paidia Active Learning, a comprehensive online resource for Socratic Seminar Learning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9GJYauGecw  (Other related videos can be located at http://www.paideia org)


    2.    After viewing the video, reflect on the following:

                   a.   What do you find intriguing about the idea of Socratic Seminar?

                   b.   Do you think that Socratic Seminar will be an effective teaching/learning strategy? Why?

    Post Your Responses on Nimbus in the VTSD Online Professional Development Course Discussions (You will have to join the group first).  Please copy and paste the question above your response so that others can more easily follow your posts.    http://voorheesnimbus.schoolwires.net/groups/home/tabid/93/ClassId/437039/Default.aspx

    3.    If you are an elementary teacher, view the video entitled Socratic Seminar Strategies for the Second Grade Classroom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBfH_fhAme0&list=PL1DIHxaZ3nAxEMzxUIGCee63QeVXA22rn

    If you are a secondary teacher, view the video entitled Pre-Seminar Process How to Teach a Socratic Seminar Part 2 (Secondary Level) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zOj3SqQes4

    4.    After viewing the video, make a list of topics that your class may be interested in discussing during a Socratic Circle. Ideas could include current events, literature that your students may be reading, a daily journal entry, a current holiday, heroes, etc.  Share your list on VTSD Online Professional Development Courses NIMBUS page. You will need to join the NIMBUS GROUP Before You Post.  http://voorheesnimbus.schoolwires.net/groups/home/tabid/93/ClassId/437039/Default.aspx


    Session 2:

    Objective: During this session, the learner will be able to  identify the elements of a Socratic Circle and will explain the rationale for conducting Socratic Circles in the classroom.


    1.      Read the article entitled Yes, Elementary Students Can Use Socratic Circles by Dondi Frisinger.  http://www.naesp.org/communicator-december-2014/yes-elementary-students-can-use-socratic-circles

    Think about the following questions:

                            a.    How do Socratic Circles relate to the Common Core?

                            b.    In what content areas and grade levels do students benefit from participating in Socratic          Circles?

    2.      Read the article entitled Socratic Seminars: Engaging Students in Intellectual Discourse by Lynda Tredway. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept95/vol53/num01/Socratic-Seminars@-Engaging-Students-in-Intellectual-Discourse.aspx

                  Think about the following questions:

                   a.       List the steps required to implement a Socratic Circle.

                   b.      What skills can students gain from participating in a Socratic Circle?

                   c.       What is the role of the teacher in a Socratic Circle?


    3.      Reflection:  Think about a previous lesson that you have taught that could include a Socratic Circle as part of the lesson.  What pre-planning would you have to do to ensure the Socratic Circle was successful?  While implementing the Socratic Circle what would you be doing as the facilitator of the discussion?  Post your thoughts on Nimbus. http://voorheesnimbus.schoolwires.net/groups/home/tabid/93/ClassId/437039/Default.aspx


    Session 3:

    Objective: The learner will navigate to and select a lesson plan from the Paideia Website to implement in their classroom.


    1.      Open a web browser and navigate to http://www.paideia.org/teachers/seminar-lesson-plans/.

    2.      Select your appropriate grade level

                   a.       Early Elementary

                   b.      Upper Elementary

                   c.       Middle School

                   d.      High School

    3.      Select your desired subject

                   a.       English and Language Arts

                   b.      Math

                   c.       Science

                   d.      Social Studies

    4.      Select Free

    5.      Click Submit

    6.      Select the lesson you wish to view by clicking on Details.

    7.      Right click on Lesson Plan – Download PDF and select Open in new Tab.

    8.      The lesson is now ready for you to view and utilize.

    9.      After implementing the lesson, return to NIMBUS http://voorheesnimbus.schoolwires.net/groups/home/tabid/93/ClassId/437039/Default.aspx and reflect upon the Socratic Seminar you chose.  Points you may wish to consider:

                   a.        How was your Socratic Seminar different from a traditional lesson?

                   b.       How did your students react to the Socratic Seminar lesson?

                   c.       Would you make modifications to the lesson and if so, what would you do       differently?

                   d.      Would you recommend this lesson to a colleague?


    1.      Computer with an internet connection

    2.      Supplies/materials designated within the specific lesson of choice.  


    Session 4 (Optional):

    * As learner become familiar with Socratic Method, learning may want to explore video-taping and documenting their students in action.  Learner will receive an additional 2 hours of Professional Development Hours.

    Objective:  During this session, the learner will produce a video of the class implementing a Socratic Circle and post it on NIMBUS and the learner’s website.


    1.      View this student-created video about Socratic Circle and get inspired https://www.voorhees.k12.nj.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=69955&ViewID=94B66785-F3F0-41A8-8414-1E55691D3E9E&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=72576&PageID=69013

    2.      Find a volunteer to video tape students during Socratic activity (You may want to train select students to videotape, or a staff member)

    3.      Set up video camera or iPad so that all students are seen (Make sure all students have been given parent permission to have their image posted on the internet).  Videographer should use tripod or prop device on desk/table. (Technical note: if you are enlisting trained students, you may suggest two different angled shots for editing purposes).  Video to Help with Video Taping: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/videotaping-tips-for-teachers

    4.      Remind students of appropriate behaviors and expectations before filming.

    5.      First video yourself introducing the topic and expectations.

    6.      Video your class’s Socratic Circle Activity.

    7.      Technical Suggestions: Videographers should tape videos in short segments, stopping and starting during different pauses throughout the activity.  This is important during the editing process and prevents files from being too large.

    8.      When filming is finished, use an editing software to finalize your video (You may want to use select students to edit video)  How to Edit Your Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grYjna2xnOY

    9.      Post your video to Nimbus.  You may want to first post the video to your website and then post the link on Nimbus. 


    Congratulations you have reached the final step toward completing the first district created online course!  Please complete the reflection form https://www.voorhees.k12.nj.us/Page/78136  and email it to onlinelearning@voorhees.k12.nj.us.  Once the reflection form has been reviewed, you will be issued the Introduction to Socratic Circle badge. 

    Additional Resources

    How to Teach a Socratic Seminar: http://www.paideia.org/about-paideia/socratic-seminar/

    Socratic Seminar Rules and Goals:  http://www.paideia.org/socratic-seminar-rules/

    Socratic Seminar Sentence Starters: http://bolinas-stinson.org/sites/default/files/Socratic%2520Seminar%2520%28Sentence%2520Starters%2520handout%29.pdf

    Structure Talk:  Socratic Seminar: http://www.liketoread.com/socraticseminars.html

    Argue Safely:  http://www.liketoread.com/Resources/Argue%20Safely%20Tips.pdf