A Socratic Seminar is an AVID strategy that is named for its embodiment of Socrates’ belief in the power of asking questions, inquiry over information, and discussion over debate.
Elfie Israel succinctly defines Socratic Seminars and implies their rich benefits for students: The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions. Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others. They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly.
Participants seek deeper understanding of complex ideas in the text through rigorously thoughtful dialogue. This process encourages divergent thinking.
The 8th grade honors language arts class recently participated in a Socratic Seminar after reading the novel, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys. Students discussed their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the novel.
The 7th grade honors communications class also recently completed a Socratic Seminar as well. Students read three articles about immigration. Students answered open-ended questions about the articles to prepare for the seminar. Students discussed what they learned from the articles and their opinions about our current immigration laws.
Advocates for Human Rights
On October 25th the 7th grade honors communications class invited Madeline Lohman, from The Advocates For Human Rights organization, to speak about immigrants’ rights. In her presentation, she shared immigrants’ personal stories and struggles. Students learned about immigrants in the U.S., the immigration process, and detention centers. Ms. Lohman was a wealth of knowledge and the class learned a lot. The presentation tied into our curriculum because the students read Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, an excerpt from Immigrant Kids by Russell Freedman, and current articles about immigration.
Japanese American Citizens League
On September 19th the seventh grade honors communications students were fortunate to have Janet Carlson from the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League Education Committee come and speak to them. Students were able to make many connections between the memoir they just read, Farewell to Manzanar and Ms. Carlson’s family’s story. During World War II, her paternal grandfather and his family, including her father, were forcibly removed from Seattle to internment camps in Puyallup, WA and then Hunt, Idaho (Minidoka). She shared what she had learned from her father and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The National Archives houses all of the documents generated during WWII and interactions of government officials with Japanese Americans. She has taught about this topic for several years at Macalester College and Hamline University.