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Hamden Hall Country Day School
Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

Grade 6 Students Think Critically in Socratic Seminar

A recent English class for sixth-grade students took an unexpected turn as teacher Patrick Yeoman walked through the door dressed as Socrates for an enriching learning experience. Students partook in a Socratic Seminar for their current reading of Among The Hidden by author Margaret Peterson Haddix.

The Socratic Seminar is a student-led discussion activity that combines text analysis with speaking and listening skills. Students are able to pose questions and discuss topics to better understand and analyze the material through different perspectives and insights.

“I really like the Socratic Seminar strategy because I think it is very comprehensive in terms of all the different English Language Arts (ELA) skills it involves, and all the different modalities it forces students to work in,” said Patrick. “It involves critical reading, note-taking, citing text evidence, making text connections, and all those other wonderful fundamental reading and writing skills. It also gives equal emphasis to speaking and listening skills, which sometimes take a backseat.” 

To prepare for the assignment, students wrote a series of open-ended questions relating to the novel’s themes of coming of age and class inequality before gathering together to have a structured, peer-led discussion. With Socrates, a.k.a. Mr. Yeoman, overseeing the discussion, the students were able to openly ask questions, contribute their thoughts on a classmate's question, make comments, and allow for feedback and evaluation.

“I really like how this strategy gives students more than one way to show their learning as equal emphasis is given to the written portion of the seminar and the discussion portion,” said Mr. Yeoman. “I have found that students who excel verbally, but struggle with reading stamina or organizing thoughts on paper, can really shine in the discussion portion; and students who are more reserved are forced to push a little out of their comfort zones in order to participate in the discussion.”

Mr. Yeoman further noted that humor and theatricality are great tools for any teacher to experiment with and said he always finds an excuse to throw on a costume or wig for a lesson. He hopes that students model the engagement of going the extra mile and are passionate about something while having fun.

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