Thursday, December 15, 2016

Socratic Seminars: AVID Strategies

A Socratic Seminar is an AVID structure that can help you introduce several elements of WICOR into a lesson: Inquiry, Collaboration, and Reading. The idea behind a Socratic Seminar is that part of our job in education is to teach kids to think, to listen without judging, and to ask great questions.

Socratic Seminars focus on dialogue instead of debate; it's important to talk about the difference with kids before embarking on a Socratic Seminar. This Dialogue vs. Debate Handout is a good starting point.

There are several variations of Socratic Seminars, but they all have four elements. These elements are briefly explained below, and are also available on the Elements of Socratic Seminars Handout
1. A Text. The text can be from any subject area and should include a richness of ideas and viewpoints. If there is no text, then it's not a Socratic Seminar (it's likely Philosophical Chairs, another AVID strategy).
2. A Question. In a Socratic Seminar, the discussion starts with a question, preferably generated by students. This question generates new ones and the line of inquiry evolves instead of being planned ahead of time. 
3. A Leader. A student serves as the discussion leader and a participant. The leader keeps the conversation moving along and on topic; the leader also makes sure everyone is involved. While the teacher may model the role of a leader when teaching kids how to participate in a Socratic Seminar, the teacher should not be the leader on a regular basis. This student-friendly handout on the Role of the Leader gives many specific descriptions. You can get creative with how you select a leader. In English, I had kids draw cards from a deck and the person who drew the Joker was the leader for that round. 
4. Participants. Quality participants are prepared (have read and annotated a text), are active listeners, generate insightful questions, share ideas, encourage the participation of others, and reference the text. All students should have a list of Roles and Responsibilities of a Seminar Participant

A typical Socratic Seminar takes place in a circle. After reading and annotating an article, the leader starts by asking a question about the text. Then, the leader and participants let the conversation evolve as they look to explore multiple interpretations and points of view. The text is the anchor for the conversation, and participants should reference it frequently. The goal of a Socratic Seminar is not to come to a single, unanimous conclusion. Rather, it is to encourage students to think, support their ideas with the text, ask questions, and observe the rules of dialogue (not debate). 

Tips for to implementing a Socratic Seminar in your classroom: 
- Before introducing Socratic Seminars, kids need practice reading critically, annotating texts, and generating questions from a text. It is also helpful if kids have generated discussion norms. 
- Teach kids the structure of the Socratic Seminar, including roles, before attempting to run a full seminar. Do a few practice rounds with different leaders and give the group feedback. 
- Start with short Socratic Seminars (15-20 minutes), then build up students' stamina for longer ones. 
- Help students plan meaningful questions using the Developing Opening, Core, and Closing Questions Template as well as the Question Planning Template.
- Allow silence. When first implementing a Socratic Seminar, you'll need to coach kids to talk to each other and not to you (the teacher). Also, be ready to allow the awkward silences. Resist the temptation to jump in and save kids by offering a question or steering the conversation: that is the job of the leader and all the participants. It will typically take several seminars before kids fully realize that it is their job to keep things going and that the teacher will not enter the discussion to help them. I have found that taking detailed notes during seminars shows students that I am engaged but not facilitating the conversation. 
- Allow students the opportunity to engage in student to student and student to self feedback by using the Socratic Seminar Debrief or the Socratic Seminar Rubric. You can also do this in the form of an exit ticket by asking students what is one thing the group did well and what is one thing the group can do to improve for the next Socratic Seminar. Then, share these responses next class period. 

There are multiple variations of the Socratic Seminar that do not use the traditional, one-circle format. These including a Fish Bowl and Pilot/Co-Pilot Seminar. In a Fish Bowl (also called Inner/Outer Circle), there is a small circle (5-6 kids) with a leader and a large circle. Only the small circle talks, while the outer circle observes using a tool such as Fish Bowl Observation Tool or the Inner/Outer Discussion Observation. As the topic shifts, new students are brought into the inner circle and kids in the inner circle move to the outer circle. The Fish bowl can be a great way to practice roles of Leader and Participant before trying a whole-class Socratic Seminar right away. The Pilot/Co-Pilot Seminar features groups of students (usually 3) working together to make points to the group. Both of these variations are also excellent for larger classes (25 students or more).

Want more specifics? This video shows one teacher's specific room set up, grading system, and classroom procedures for his Socratic Seminars. This teacher uses a Fishbowl format. The first 3-4 minutes are the most helpful.

This additional video shows a middle school classroom and how the teacher sets up and runs her Socratic Seminars with the Fishbowl format.

We have several teachers at the 7-9 building who use Socratic Seminars frequently, so our students are familiar with these activities and enjoy them. If you are interested in trying one out and would like support or ideas, please reach out. If you have tips or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Targeted Questioning: Teach Like a Champion Strategies

Targeted Questioning: A quick series of carefully chosen, open-ended questions directed at a strategic sample of the class and executed in a short period of time.

Targeted Questioning is a Teach Like a Champion Strategy that aims to ensure all students are understanding the most important aspects of a lesson. Targeted Questioning replaces unreliable forms of questioning, like self reporting where a teacher simply asks the class, "Does everyone get it?" and a few kids mumble yes or shake their heads. Self reporting does not really tell a teacher if kids understand, but Targeted Questioning can.

There are a few important principles of Targeted Questioning:

1. Plan Ahead: Choose a few transitional points in your lesson where you know in advance you want to ask a few questions to see if kids learned a concept. This may add time to your lesson, but choosing a few points throughout the lesson instead of one at the end will help you catch points of confusion early in the learning process.

2. Write the Questions in Advance: Prepare questions in advance, ideally when you are lesson planning. While this may take extra time, it frees up your brain power during the lesson to analyze how well kids are understanding the content. For each transitional point, have a few questions ready that will help you assess how well kids have learned the information.

3. Speed Counts: Each time Targeted Questioning is used in a lesson, it should take less than a minute or two. If the questions take longer, it's harder to consistently work Targeted Questioning into your lesson.

4. Sample Strategically: When calling on kids to answer the questions, try to call on 5-6 kids who represent the range of abilities in the room (2 kids who struggle, 2 kids in the middle, and 1-2 kids who get things quickly). Select the specific kids you will call on in advance to save time.

5. Cold Call: Cold Call takes place when the teacher chooses who will answer the questions without asking students to raise their hands. (Cold Call is a separate Teach Like a Champion Strategy.) If you only call on kids raising their hands, you are not getting a strategic sample but rather a group of kids who are all confident that they did learn the material. Use Cold Call with Sample Strategically to get the most accurate data from your class.

This quick clip shows the importance of Strategic Sampling and Cold Call to get an accurate read of what kids know.

If this teacher only called on the students with their hands raised, she would not have known that Kayla did not understand what clever meant.

Targeted Questioning goes well with Feedback because taking the time to question kids in this way allows them to show the teacher what they know. It also gives the teacher an opportunity to let students know how they are doing and what might need to be fixed.

Once you are comfortable working Targeted Questioning into your lessons, you can add more variety to the questions in the form of things like partnering, white boards, clickers/plickers, etc.

What are some of your favorite times and methods for Targeting Questioning? Feel free to leave ideas in the comments below.

Source: Teach Like a Champion 2.0 by Doug Lemov, pages 34-39.