Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Socratic Seminar

My 4th graders participated in a Socratic Seminar today.  It was really fun!  We had been learning about writing opinions for the past two months and this was our cumulative activity to end the unit.  The assignment was to first decide whether it would be better for the principal to use his LCAP money given to the school by the government to purchase computers for the class or provide more field trips for the students. 

After the students chose a side, they were given two articles to read and use for research so they could talk knowledgably about the subject.  Two articles were on the benefits of using computers in the classroom and two were on the educational benefits of field trips.  I explained how all opinions are good as long as they are backed up with good details and examples.   We also practiced using citations and paraphrasing.  Then came the day of the Socratic Seminar.

I asked my principal if he would join us for the activity.  I, like most teachers don't make it a habit of inviting the administration to a lesson.  No matter how well you plan and prepare, you really never know how a lesson will turn out, and sometimes its best to find out in the privacy of your own classroom.  But I felt that for this activity to as successful as I foresaw it being, I needed student buy in.  If they were discussing what the principal should use money on, he needed to be present to hear their arguments.  I needed to apply it to real life and make it applicable to them. 

Our principal was scheduled to come into the classroom at 2:30.  At 2:15 my students were a nervous wreck!  Every time the door opened, whether it be the custodian, a random student, or the secretary, they all jumped on account of their nerves.  They were so excited and nervous that he was coming in to hear what they had to say, their opinions! 

We took these extra 15 minutes to prepare the class for Socratic Seminar.  We moved desks and situated chairs in a circle in the middle of the room.  Half the students sat in the circle while the others sat near a buddy that they were going to evaluate with a listening/speaking checklist.  We cleaned the room extra well and then he entered!

The students were so adorable!  They spoke their opinions.  They used details and examples.  They cited articles and reasoned.  But what I was most impressed with was their courtesy.  They let each other talk and praised good ideas.  When there was a disagreement, they used sentence stems such as, "I see your point but..."  or "I have another idea..."  As my students used their voices powerfully, with fantastic structure and academic vocabulary, I just sat back and was amazed!  These are our future leaders.  These students are our next scientists, politicians, doctors, educators, and so much more.  For them to learn to talk to someone in authority to express themselves is priceless.  It was a really good day.  And by the way, the principal decided to use the LCAP money for both of their causes.  Today we got more computers and field trips.  Again, it was a great day!

No comments:

Post a Comment