Socratic Dialogue

I started class several days ago by projecting a picture of a dead Greek philosopher on the screen. That would have been a bit strange except for the fact that we were beginning a mini-unit on Socratic Dialogue. The goal of a Socratic Dialogue is to have a group discussion that centers around asking questions and sharing ideas about the text rather than creating a polemical debate. I think our classroom experience, while occasionally frustrating, was really rewarding.

We began with a discussion of the differences between a lecture, a debate, and a dialogue. Students were given a question from the text and an evening to make notes and annotate the text so they would be prepared for discussion in class the following day. On the day of the dialogue, the observers sat on the outside of the circle and those who were dialoguing sat in the center.

Question for Group #1: The theme of forgiveness applies to many characters in Susan Fletcher’s novel, Shadow Spinner. Which character do you feel learned the most about forgiveness?

Question for Group #2: Do you agree with Auntie Chava when she says that callused things are “good and sweet on the inside?” (80). Why or why not? How does this quote relate to the events that happen in Shadow Spinner?

Some excellent resources for Socratic Dialogue/Seminar are available here. We recorded one of the dialogues using Audacity. I will post some of the audio at a later date.

Prompt for student comments: What is one thing you think you did well during the dialogue? What is one thing you could improve upon for the next dialogue?

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42 Comments on “Socratic Dialogue”

  1. kristina Says:

    I think that I did a good job stating my opinion, and trying to get others to go with my opinions as well. The group was really hard to convince though!!! Next time, I think I will realize how hard it is to convince other kids. I will prepare with more information and facts!!!

  2. abbyha Says:

    I think I listened well during the dialog I think it helped me learn more about the book when I heard another point of view. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take part in the discussion because I was absent, but what I did experience which was the observing I thought was attentive.


  3. MsStewart Says:

    The cool thing about a dialogue is that you’re not trying to “convince” anyone of anything. It takes some of the stress out of the conversation, although it’s still important to be prepared. However, sometimes listening to people with different views and resisting the urge to try and convince them can be stressful ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. ivanap Says:

    I think I did a good job with coming up with good points and ideas. I thought I had some points made across to the group. I think maybe next time I will just stay out of a conversation if everyone is trying to talk at once. That becomes very tiring and it just adds on to the noise. I enjoyed the discussion, it was a lot of fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Kaavya Says:

    I think I was good at thinking of ideas and getting my points across. In my opinion, most of the points I made added to the discussion in a positive way. One way I could improve the way I was in the discussion is being a little bit more pushy in getting my point across. Usually, whenever I tried to make a point, I got cut off when I barely got a few words out.

    Kaavya ๐Ÿ˜ณ

  6. zakd Says:

    Something I think I did well in the dialogue was talking a good amount and letting other people talk too. I made sure everyone had a chance to talk. Something I could work is what I think the whole group could work on is staying on topic. We kept getting off topic, but since I was in group 2. Our question was harder than group 1’s.


  7. greggc Says:

    I think that I didn’t speak as much as I should of. Although it got very hard to speak because I would get cut off before I could speak, I still wish I had made my point better than I did.Besides that I think the discussion today went very well.

  8. Charlie Says:

    I think that I did well in the discussion. The one thing I need to improve on is that I need to listen more. But, I thought I did well sharing my thoughts.

  9. gmaxg Says:

    I think that I had some useful ideas to bring to the table. Next time I should probably suggest some page numbers for the group.

  10. hurschp Says:

    I think that when we were at the table I personaly brought up/added some major topics. On thing that I could improve on is to talk or make more comments.

  11. alexu1 Says:

    I think I did a good job on saying what I felt the answer was and answering a question taht was asked to me towards the end. Though I do feel I could work on being the person who asks the question. I also hope that next time the group could be a little more civil not boring, maybe a couple up and downs but not still under control.


  12. erinb1 Says:

    I thought that I did well starting topics (though some were off topic) but just the same a lot of people did great starting topics and overall it was really fun. One thing that I could have improved on was maybe trying to talk less because when I talked to much others didn’t get to.


  13. maxgor Says:

    I thought I did a good job of calming the group down and saying my opinions without causeing a debate. I think I could have moved the disscussion on more though.

  14. jonathanav Says:

    In the discussion it was mostly good but had some bad times. In my opinion some great things were that people listened to eac other’s answers and ideas. Also everyone had great comments and ideas. Some bad things were that people interupted or talked to much. Also when someone felt as if they were the center and everyone should listen to them. Overall everything was great.

  15. alecf1 Says:

    I thought I was good at making new points. I need to talk a little less.

  16. ashleyco Says:

    I felt that I did a good job listening to people. I also did a good job of staying active in the discussion. I would talk when I felt that I needed to add something and I would listen to everyone else so that I would know what was going on. I think I could improve on making longer statements other than very short statements. I also noticed that some people were not being very active in the discussion and being kind of shy. I tried to pull them into the discussion by asking them what they thought about the question. I probably need to work on pulling people in to the discussion. I felt that I pulled one person into the discussion but wish that I could pull more people in to the discussion. Those are my goals for next time. Overall I had a very good time.

    Ashley C. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. ravenw1 Says:

    I think that I did a very good job keeping people on toopic when we were starting to get a little random. I also thought I did a great job backing my comments with facts. I also think that I did a good job listening but I think I could’ve done a better job. But I think my groupp did a pretty good job all together!!!! Go My Team!!!! :mrgreen:

  18. ethank1 Says:

    Hey all!
    Well I thought I did okay.
    I didn’t talk much (Zak said i talked only five times, I think I did more but oh well….). But it seemed that every time I talked i shifted the conversation a little. I would pose a question every few minutes and other people would be like “Yeah I agree, but i wonder if…” or “What is wrong with you??? That is so not true, this is what i think.”. This is my view on it. I thought the whole socratic dialogue thing was a good unit.

  19. minjiey Says:

    I felt I did a nice job of putting my opinion in the discussion. People usually think of me as a quiet person, but when you get to know me, you know I’m a chatter box. My friends used to tell me to stop talking because I talked too much. I’m glad i got to put my thoughts into the discussion, thanks to Albert the Pen.

    My goal for the next socratic dialogue is for my group to find a way to talk in some sort of a civilized manner, BUT not too boring. Our group’s discussion was a mix of everything. Maybe kind of like a rollercoaster! First, we were all civilized passing Albert the Pen saying what we wanted and moving to the next person: we all did this without shouting. Then we started to kind of speed up. Not as civilized but in a way we were. Saying what we wanted forgetting the Pen, even though we still kept it. And then it really became like group one’s discussion. Tory decided to drop the Pen, so we all just started shouting our opinions and saying random things. It wasn’t civilized anymore. But, the beginning of the discussion was too boring and the end did not do any good. So, I guess the middle of our discussion was the most like a socratic dialogue.

    ~M!NJ!3 ~

    kIwIs ArE aWeSoMe ๐Ÿ˜€

  20. annaj1 Says:

    I think I did a good job engaging in the conversation. We started out civilized but it wasn’t fum so we got rid of Albert and started yelling. We were most like a Socratic dialog when we got really into the conversation but still had the pen. I could improve by not yelling and getting carried away with Albert’s awesomeness.

  21. katiesh Says:

    I think the Socratic dialogue was fun. I did a good job with contributing to the conversation and stating my opinion and for the most part my group stayed on topic. My group didn’t use all that many page numbers but we didn’t need them so much. I think next time I could improve by allowing other people more into the conversation because me and a few other people talked the most and I think we should have opened up more. I think the Socratic dialogue was fun.

    ~Katie S ๐Ÿ˜†

  22. ryanm1 Says:

    I think i could improve on not talking so loud to get heard. I also think that i was talking loud because the class was load. I also think that i was good at bringing the group back on the prompt.

  23. andrewk1 Says:

    I think that I did well in getting my point across and speaking loudly. I need to improve on not repeating what I have said 50 billion times. I will only state my point once or twice in the future. I really liked it though!

  24. caseym1 Says:

    I didn’t like the socratic dialogue because I couldn’t get my point across all the time like in class.

  25. MsStewart Says:

    Hi everyone,
    A reminder that you don’t need to sign your post because your username is displayed. Also, remember not to use your last name.

  26. ahmadat Says:

    yo peeps
    this is Ahmad
    i think i did pretty good at talking even though some times whin i talked i was a bit off topic but for the most part i thought i did well. even though some people would get off topic and other people would say its ok, cough cough(KATIE). other than that i think i did pretty well. i felt like it was something useful exept that ms stewart would kind of get(FRUSTRATED). it was fun.



  27. ahmadat Says:


  28. rachelt1 Says:

    In the discussion, i think that i helped it move along. Some people got off topic and i helped them get back on. I think that i did a good job stating my point. In the second group, i only heard them 2 times but i think i talked as much as i could. When we were talking i think that i changed my mind a lot which is ok and came up with a final answer. When things went out of control, i stated the answer to the question that our group agreed on and it helped keep things “in” hand.


  29. rachelt1 Says:

    Forgot this:
    Next time i think that i could budge into the conversation a little more and not repeat things over and over. I also think that i didn’t show my prof enough on the page #s when i was talking


  30. joannaw1 Says:

    I thought i did a good job at listening but could improve speaking more. It was kind of hard getting a word in unless you were shouting because everyone would shout over you and interupt.


  31. amandal1 Says:

    I think I did a pretty good job of listening while others talked. I also feel as though I did a good job of helping others talk. However sometimes i helped to much so I didn’t get to talk as much. I also think I would have done better if I had avoided side conversations with Samantha. We both found it frustrating that people kept cutting us off, and we were trying to figure out how to get a turn to speak.

    ~Amanda ๐Ÿ˜›

  32. anneg1 Says:

    I think that it was great when my group used that pen and when we passed it around and fought over who got it next. We might have acted a little out of controll when we would fight over the pen but at least we listened to each other. I mean the other group in my class was conpletely out of hand (no offense you guys), because they were screaming and shouting and laughing and interupting each other alot! But it was still VERY entertaining to watch them argue over who’s voice was heard.

    ~Anne~ โ— ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

  33. kendallb1 Says:

    I really could have prepared more. Even though it may not have seemed like it I hadn’t prepared that much but ideas came to me and I was able to draw up a few good similes (that’s simile not smiles not that I didn’t make any jokes ๐Ÿ™‚ ). I think our group period seven group one did relatively well but better towards the end when people started to run out of things to say. Next time I really think we should go in order or organize this somehow because certain people really didn’t get to talk. On the other hand you could give us a boring prompt giving that enthusiasm is the real problem. Also sometimes you just have to talk over people or try to get attention in some way shape or form. But as it has been said at least 3 times it was a very enjoyable experience and maybe we should use one of the just for fun posts as the question.


  34. zoedo Says:

    I really liked this activity. I thought I did well knowing the text. Maybe next time I could contribute more to the to the group.


  35. samif1 Says:

    I really enjoyed doing the two Socratic Dialogues because I felt that this was a good way to get across our point while allowing everyone to speak. I think that I did very well when I was trying to get people to hear my point, however, I did not do very well allowing some of the more shy people to speak. I think that if we do this again, I will try much harder to do that.

  36. coliny1 Says:

    I think I did a really great job on expressing my thoughts. I was able to give as much detail of what I was thinking, but it was also easy for the other members of my group to understand what I was trying to say. However, I think I could have talked a little less and let other people have more turns to express what they are thinking

  37. isabelleb1 Says:

    I think that I did a good job saying what I needed to say. I think that I built on other peoples’ thoughts and expressed my own opinion. I also think that I did a good job preparing myself for the socratic dialogue.I think that I could have maybe taken the dialoque a little more seriously (I.E. laughed a little less)I enjoyed the socratic dialogue imensly; and I hope that we can do it again.


  38. cohend Says:

    I think that I made sure that people heard what I said, but that I also heard what other people said. That is what I believe I did well on. I could have improved on placing my statements in a manor that could have brought other people into the conversation *easier*.


  39. hannahc1 Says:

    I think I did a good job in listening and in telling or showing in the dialog. I think this was a great way to discuss things and I raelly enjoyed the experince. Things that other people said made me change my mind or think of things in a different way.

  40. rianas Says:

    Um, I think I did a good job with pointing out things that sometimes changes people minds and also asking questions to keep the conversation moving along. I think that it’s really important to be aggressive and get your point across, but also to listen to other’s thoughts and ideas.
    -rIaNa :mrgreen:

  41. samanthas1 Says:

    I liked the whole conversation and everything, but so many people were talking at once it was hard to get a word out. Normally I am a very loud person, you can ask rachel t. but I found this exercise difficult because you are trying to be respectful and let other people talk, but at the same time certain people are being completely disrespectful and don’t let you speak at all. So, considering the pros and cons of the situation, i wouldn’t recommend the exercise again, no hard feelings Ms. Stewart.

  42. sydneyt1 Says:

    During the Socratic Dialogue, I think that I did a good job of answering the questions with some examples from the book, listening to others, and trying to stay on topic. Even when I sometimes got cut off, I did not really mind and let the other person talk. Next time in the socratic dialogue, I think I should think of some questions to add on to the first question. People just had so many questions that they could bring out of the first question, and I really did not have any.
    Over all, I did enjoy the socratic dialogue because it was like a free, normal conversation. Even though sometimes peoples conversations got a little off topic, we were free to correct ourselves and get back on the subject instead of a teacher constantly telling us what to do and say. Independence! It has a ring to it!

    thoughts shared by ~*SyDnEy*~ ๐Ÿ™‚

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