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Monday, April 23, 2012

Socratic Circles: The Circle of Life--at school!

Held my FIRST Socratic Circle about plastics (#1-7) and our abundant reliance on and use of #1 water bottles-- with my 6th graders. We read text, marked it, and did inner and outer circle.  It was my FIRST time to use Socratic Circles I am shocked and embarrassed to say after only 17 years! Thanks to our AVID program and our building AVID coordinator Brooke Hendry for DOING a Socratic Circle with us so we could experience it.  It was awesome and I enjoyed it. What a different experience than 'sit and git' with the same article. I was hooked.
  • I will be using this from here on out. It is a respectful, reflective, calming activity. Student-centered. 
  • The Socratic Circle puts kids face to face interacting, exchanging ideas with each other.  The kids are in charge instead of the teacher.
  • FUNNY: Kids kept looking to me to moderate their circle discussion so they wouldn't interrupt, esp. in my two p.m. classes. Wasn't an issue in the morning. (Set up that they shouldn't interrupt--as day went on they focused on that more; will tweak) Encouraged them to take care of it themselves; not to worry about doing it right and looking to me. Hmm, how's that for teacher-centered conditioning?! I sat on the outside watching, observing, making thoughtful faces. :)
  • COOL: No one necessarily knows the outcome of any Socratic Circle. Where could it go? What cool things might we learn, think of, wander and hit upon? Collective inquiry.

Which practice has more power to transform, create, and energize?  
  • Reading and marking text, discussing/sharing with peers/bouncing ideas off of peers; brainstorming OR 
  • Reading text, answering predetermined questions and spitting out predetermined correct answers?

This second picture is my 7th hour who finished out the circle time raising hands so they wouldn't interrupt each other. I will change that next time, I believe. I like the resources below, like the poster on the ground rules and expectations during SC in link #2. 

The kids had NO CLUE that there were 7 main types of plastics. They didn't know about the issues around  the numbers on some of the plastics. They didn't know some campuses were banning water bottles. Cool seeing some kids step out and take the lead with a strong voice! My 2nd hour class generated a long list of actions to take! They have signups and are following up next week after our fishing trip. If I had this to redo, I would have read and had the kids react personally to articles in day 1 verbally and written, adding a video clip to round out topics. I would have had the kids talk in small groups to bounce ideas off of others and formulate their talking points. I would have held Socratic Circle the next day. Will adjust in the future!!

--cool ideas (she uses just one circle; uses video, audio, in addition to print; groups of 4 discussing prior to starting Socratic Circle may ease talking anxiety of shy students.)


  1. What an awesome idea !!! Can you come to Park and teach me how to be a good teacher.. I haven't heard about Socratic circles before :)

  2. Thanks, Samantha! I liked Socratic Circles, especially once I participated in one myself. Oh you know I'd love to come to Park and teach you about it. :) See you SOON! Are you on Twitter?

  3. This portal is a nice resource to get curious info! Will you be mind if I reblog some of your entries on my own blog?