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Socratic Seminar
Philosophic Inquiry
Junior Great Books
Book Studies

“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue-to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.” -Socrates

SocratesSocratic Seminar Ground Rules

  1. Read the text carefully. Your opinions are important, but these opinions are your thoughts about the text.
  2. Listen to what others say and don’t interrupt. A discussion cannot occur if you don’t listen carefully to what other people say.
  3. Speak clearly. For others to respond to your opinions, everyone must be able to hear and understand you.
  4. Give others your respect. A discussion is a cooperative exchange of ideas and not an argument or a debate.  You may become very excited and wish to share your ideas, but don’t talk privately to your neighbor.  In a Socratic seminar you will talk publicly for the whole class.

Socratic Seminar Goals

You will learn to a) listen better to what others say, b) explain your own ideas, c) speak and work with others whether you know them or not, d) receive correction and criticism from others, e) ask about what you don’t understand f) admit when you are wrong, g) think about questions for which the answers are uncertain, h) learn from others, i) teach others, j) teach yourself, and k) become more aware of how people see you. “Socratic questioning recognizes that questions, not answers, are the driving force in thinking.  Socratic seminars explore ideas, values, and issues drawn from readings or art works chosen for their richness.  They also provide a forum to expand participants’ familiarity with works drawn from many cultural sources.  Leaders help participants to make sense of a text and of their own thinking by asking questions about reasoning, evidence, connections, examples, and other aspects of sound thinking. A good seminar is more devoted to making meaning than to mastering information.  Seminars strengthen participants’ learning by getting them actively engaged in rigorous critical thought.  Practical activities are always followed by periods of reflection and discussion about what has been experienced.  The goal here is to allow learners to create a community of inquiry for the purpose of making meaning cooperatively” (Raider).
Junior Great Books
Shared inquiry method of learning is based on the idea that many minds working together can achieve more insight into a rich work of literature than could any individual working alone. Shared Inquiry Discussion:

  • Encourages students to present arguments clearly and persuasively, to offer reasons for options and inferences, and to support their ideas with evidence.
  • Helps students learn how to weigh the merits of opposing arguments and to modify their initial opinions.
  • Gives students the confidence to shape and express their own opinions about what they read.
  • Gives students practice in active listening and cooperative learning.
    * students are encouraged not to speculate, but to base opinions from evidence in the text.

Nonfiction Chapter Book:
“In the U.S. we put more than seven times the amount of energy into growing, transporting, and storing food than we get out of the food itself.” – Michael Pollan (from University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems)

Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition

  • Part 1: The Industrial Meal: Food From Corn- Chapters 1-9 
  • Part 2: The Industrial Organic Meal – Chapters 10-11 
  • Part 3: The Local Sustainable Meal: Food From Grass- Chapters 12-17 
  • Part 4: The Do-It-Yourself Meal: Hunted, Gathered, and Gardened Food- 18-22


Short Stories and Folk Tales:
Junior Great Books: Series 5 Book One –

  • The No Guitar Blues– Gary Soto
  • Kaddo’s Wall– West African Folktale as Told by Harold Courlander and George Herzog
  •  Turquoise Horse– Gerald Hausman
  •  A Came of Catch– Richard Wilber
  • Oliver Hyde’s Dishcloth Concert– Richard Kennedy
  • The Hundred-Dollar Bill- Wilder Lane
  • The Invisible Child– Tove Jansson
  • In the Time of the Drums– Gallah folktale as told by Kim L. Siegelson
  • Learning the Game– Francisco Jimenez
  • The Bat-Poet– Randall Jarrell

Socratic Seminar Texts
Touchpebbles Volume B

Common Core
Toolkit and Resources for the Common Core
Common Core Aligned Lesson Plan Template
Common Core Standards for Language Arts, History, & Science
Common Core Math Standards

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