Building Strong Minds

“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” Socrates

This week our middle school students experienced their first Socratic seminar. Socratic seminars are collaborative, intellectual conversations centered around a text. The students spent the week interacting with the short story “Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan. They numbered paragraphs, explored vocabulary, annotated the story, and brainstormed open-ended, higher-level questions. These activities culminated in the seminar where the students took turns as speakers, actively discussing the questions, and as recorders, observing the discussion and writing notes for feedback to the speakers.

Socratic seminars allow students to practice taking turns, work on disagreeing respectfully, and exercise active listening. At the same time students are learning to cite and refer to the text for evidence and support all while dissecting a text in order to gain a deeper understanding of the big ideas.

Seminar quotes from the students:
“I agree with your statement, and if you look in paragraph 22 that’s kind of what you were talking about.”

“I think Meimei is ungrateful because her parents did all that stuff for her like taking away her chores and making her brothers move out of the room, but then she gets mad and runs away.”

“When I thought about a powerful statement I didn’t really think powerful in the sense of life, but powerful for the story. That’s why I picked paragraph 53 because it was a turning point in the story since their relationship changed.”

“At first I wrote down bragging but after hearing the first group talk it made me kind of change my mind. I can see what they mean about how moms are proud of their kids so she was doing it more out of pride for her daughter.”