Socratic Seminars Sharpen Student Skills

Student-led discussions are enhancing learning for some of our youngest students.

Lakeville Area elementary students in grades 3-5 are engaging in group discussions, called Socratic Seminars, to help one another understand ideas and issues reflected in their learnings.

 

A Socratic Seminar is a formal student-led discussion, based on a text, artwork or musical piece, in which students ask one another open-ended questions. Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments and questions of their peers and think critically about different perspectives. Students learn to hone their communication and collaboration skills along with how to craft and apply deep inquiry questions.

“Teachers in grades 3-5 often value Socratic Seminars because they help students gain future-ready skills by developing a deep understanding of complex ideas through thoughtful dialogue,” said Sandy Giorgi, director of elementary teaching and learning. “Teachers who use Socratic Seminars often report that students are highly-engaged and that their comments and questions demonstrate increasing complexity and creative connections.”

Jodie Sheets, a fifth-grade teacher at Eastview Elementary has been utilizing Socratic Seminars to facilitate discussions within her classroom for the past two years.

“Socratic Seminars allow student voice to be heard as students analyze a text. Students will say more than they will ever write. There are so many skills and standards being demonstrated during a seminar and it prepares students for real-life conversations,” said Sheets. “Students report that they enjoy the opportunity to share their own thinking and hear the perspectives of others.”

Over the past two years, the District’s teaching and learning department has trained over 70 elementary teachers with Socratic Seminar strategies. Molly Hammel, gifted education services coordinator, is leading the training sessions which include introductory sessions, coaching and modeling along with collaborative discussions amongst seasoned practitioners. The department plans to offer Socratic Seminar trainings for teachers in grades K-2 as well as align the work with training efforts at the secondary level next year.

 


For more information, contact Sandy Giorgi, director of elementary teaching and learning.

 

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