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Socratic Seminars. Where questions, not answers, are the driving force in thinking. What does Socratic mean?. Socratic comes from the name Socrates , a classical Greek philosopher who developed a Theory of Knowledge : the surest way to attain reliable knowledge was

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Where questions, not answers, are the driving force in thinking.


What does Socratic mean?

Socratic comes from the name


a classical Greek philosopher who developed a

Theory of Knowledge:

the surest way to attain reliable knowledge was

through the practice of disciplined



What is a Socratic Seminar?

*a method used to understand information by creating dialectic in class regarding a

specific text.

Participants seek deeper understanding of complex ideas in text through rigorous thoughtful dialogue, rather than by memorizing bits of information.


The Text:

*richness in ideas, issues, values and their ability to stimulate dialogue.

A good text raises important


There are no right or wrong answers.

At the end of successful Socratic Seminars, participants often leave with more questions than they brought with them.


The Question:

The Socratic Seminar opens with a


posed by the leader. Responses to the opening question generate new

questions from the leader and participants, leading to new responses.


The Participants:

*carry the burden of responsibility for the quality of the seminar.

There are four ways to do this:


• participating




    How it works:

  • Students are arranged in a circle.
  • Participants understand and agree to the guidelines.
  • An opening question is raised.
  • Participants respond with textual evidence for support.
  • Participants respond with questions to information they hear.
  • Participants reflect on their experience.
helpful tips
Helpful Tips:
  • Speak to each other directly by using each other’s names.
    • Examples:
      • What Hannah said made me think about…
      • I agree with Jose because…
  • Raise questions that require explanations about opinions and ethical beliefs.
    • Examples:
      • Why do you hold this opinion?
      • What makes you think this way?
      • Do you have any personal connections that influence your opinion about this?
  • Try not to ask questions that have one word answers (unless needed to clarify information).
the difference between dialogue and debate
The difference between dialogue and debate:



  • Dialogue is collaborative: multiple sides work toward shared understanding.
  • In dialogue, one listens tounderstand, to make meaning, and to find common ground.
  • Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participant's point of view.
  • Debate is oppositional: two opposing sides try to prove each other wrong.
  • In debate, one listens to find flaws, to spot differences, and to counter arguments.
  • Debate defends assumptions as truth.
the difference between dialogue and debate1
The difference between dialogue and debate:


Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.

In dialogue, one submits one's best thinking, expecting that other people's reflections will help improve it rather than threaten it.


  • Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
  • In debate, one submits one's best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.

Make a list of 7 questions you’d like to ask during our Socratic Seminar

2 CLOSE-ENDED QUESTIONS: who, what, when, where (why, how)        Write a question about the text that will help everyone in the class come to an agreement about events or characters in the text. This question usually has a "correct" answer.

5 OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS: would, could, should, what if, (why, how)         Write an insightful question about the text that will require proof and group discussion and allow people to share their opinions.


Expectations of Participants:

Did I…..

  • Speak loudly and clearly?
  • Cite reasons and evidence for my statements?
  • Use the text to find support?
  • Listen to others respectfully?
  • Stick with the subject?
  • Talk to others, not just to the “leader”?
  • Paraphrase accurately?
  • Avoid inappropriate language?
  • Ask questions to clear up confusion?
  • Support others?
  • Avoid hostile exchanges?
  • Question others in a respectful manner?
  • Seem prepared?

How will I be assessed?

Your participation will be evaluated according to the levels of your responses.

Level 1 = 1 point, Level 2 = 2 points, Level 3 = 3 points

*5 points are required for our first Socratic Seminar.

Nobody is allowed to speak more than 5 times.

Response Level Criteria

Level 1: basic comment, “yes” or “no” responses, “I agree” or “I disagree” Level 2: giving opinions, explaining your position (“I agree because…”)

Level 3: contributing new information and in-depth responses, making connections to the text (citing pg. numbers), raising key questions to generate discussion