Socratic talks are a great way to get students to TALK deeply about a subject. You might think that they restrict contributions from other members of the class outside the ‘talk group’ but as long as you have some meaningful tasks for the ‘observers’ to focus on then you can ensure that learning becomes a two-way process.
For this talk, I invited 8 students to be the talk group. This is the group that sit in the centre and carry out the discussion. I think the class like these sessions (I hold one every term – this is enough: they don’t have too many that they become stale and they look forward to seeing the room set up for the task as they enter!) – at least that’s what they tell me.
For the subject of the talk, I thought of 8 statements (one for each member of the talk group). Here they are:
I suppose the questions cover a range of Bloom’s but I wasn’t really thinking about this; I know what the group can cope with and I thought a range of creative questions as well as some straightforward ‘content’ type questions would engage the different abilities (having said that, my year 10s can cope with anything, they’re so good!)
I cut these statements up for the talk group, placing them face down and asking each member of the group to be responsible for one of them. I asked them to discuss each statement in turn. The observers each had a photocopy of all the statements and I asked them to make notes on what the group said about each statement; also to be ready to make some comments about what was said (and whether they disagreed with anything).
Once the ground rules had been agreed, I gave the group 20 minutes to carry out the discussion. This is enough – they could talk for longer, I’m sure, but you have to think of the observers. Plus, this allows some time to listen to what the observers had to say. It was interesting to see that some observers actually continued the dialogue with the talk group which shows the dynamic nature of the task.
Here are some of the notes taken by the observers:
Notice that some of the comments have the names/initials of members of the talk group – this lead to the observers engaging directly with them in the plenary.
I was pleased with the depth of discussion, the sophisticated engagement with the text and the way that the group as a whole – talkers and observers – interacted. I’m looking forward to the next one.