Just about any topic can create a discussion. Instead of lecturing to the students and making them write pages and pages of notes, use a Socratic Seminar. This tool allows students to come up with the key information through a natural though process rather than having the teacher spell it out for them. At first, it may be difficult to use this tool. The teacher may have to set the scene, but as the school year goes on, the discussions will become more and more effective.
A Socratic Seminar begins with a broad topic. A teacher usually assigns a text to read to allow the students to gain a critical basic understanding of the topic at hand. In this case, a current event would be perfect for use in a health class. Students are to read the text and highlight the important information and to be prepared for a discussion. This can be assigned the night before as homework or it can be handed out before the discussion that day. Once the students are ready, the classroom desks are made into a circle. Depending on the amount of students in the class, the teacher has the option to either use the whole class in the discussion or create a second circle on the outside making those out there the note takers for a short period of time and the groups will rotate so everyone can participate. If a second circle is created on the outside, an empty desk can be placed on the inside circle known as the “hot seat”. If a student on the outside of the circle has something to share to the class, they can have a seat at the “hot seat” and join the discussion for a brief moment. This is the layout of the Socratic Seminar.
The next part is the delivery. The teacher needs to prepare questions for the discussion. If the class is new to Socratic Seminars, the teacher will also need to create an introduction question to get the class to respond. The introduction question should get the students to go back into the text and notes and get them thinking. Do not panic if there is a pause in the discussion. Students will, soon enough, respond to the question which can then lead to more questions that are added to the discussion. The teacher should not be doing most of the talking. They should let the discussion go and see how it evolves. If the class gets off topic, the teacher brings them back with another question to keep them on track. It is important for the teacher to have a few key points in their mind. When doing this, the teacher can guide them in the right direction, without giving it away, showing purpose to this discussion. These seminars are supposed to take time to generate answers, so don’t rush it!
The class is the most important part of the seminar. They need to participate in order for this to be effective. If the class is new to this, the teacher will lead the discussion, if not, then the teacher picks a student to be the leader. The leader will play the role of the teacher from the last paragraph. They will ask the questions and get their peers to participate. The participants will share their ideas as well as listen to others ideas. In a Socratic Seminar hands are not raised in order to speak. One student speaks at a time and others wait for their time to speak. Students are to be courteous and not interrupt their peers for they will wish equal respect given to them. Students can respond based on facts from the text, they can state their opinions on the topic, or they can even ask a question to the class. While this is all occurring, the leader of the seminar is keeping track of participation. If a student isn’t participating, the leader can ask a simple question to the student and build from there. Start simple to get the student to talk and gradually get them more involved. This can be used if you have a student who is shy or quiet in class. Now, the Socratic Seminar is flowing and the leader is guiding them to the finish line.
The Socratic Seminar is a great tool to use in the Health classroom. It is a great way to get students to discuss current events and health issues. The students get to actively participate and obtain the same information they would be receiving in a lecture in a new and more interactive fashion. The Socratic Seminar is a fun way to gain the same information.