Swansea, SC - Socratic Seminars are academic discussions among students which revolve around any text the students have read, and Swansea High School teachers find it is one way for all students to lead, learn, serve and excel in any classroom. “If students can read and analyze it, then they can talk about it,” says Swansea High School English teacher Laura Liger. “The given text can range from novels, short stories and poems to articles, graphs and word problems.”
Typically, students prepare for a Socratic Seminar by interacting deeply with a text, such as reading and annotating, as well as creating open-ended questions for discussion. English teacher Kelli Wilson commented, “I enjoy seeing students really dig into a topic and make connections through discussion that they hadn't thought of before. One of the most rewarding things is seeing students who are quiet come out of their shells.” Part of the criteria is the students’ ability to articulate their ideas and ask questions to their classmates.
A Socratic Seminar has guidelines for behavior encouraging dialogue and discussion among students, which differs from debate, casual conversations and whole group discussions with their teacher. “It was a little uncomfortable, at first, talking to people I don’t really know,” stated student Fallon Hunt, “but I liked hearing all the different viewpoints.” One of the challenges many students face is speaking directly to their peers, instead of directing questions and comments to their teacher. “With a little structuring, students are able to effectively take turns speaking, actively listen and respond to one another appropriately, cite life experiences or prior knowledge to support their opinions, and craft their contributions in a genial way,” explained Wilson.