**Socratic Seminars in the Math Classroom? Why Not!!!**

At the begging of
last school year, I set a
goal to implement Socratic Seminars into
my classes. Colleagues and students kept
asking “how do you do Socratic Seminars
in Math???” I told them I was n ot sure, but I was going to find a way. I had taught many students over the years that had loved these seminars in
their social studies and English classes, and I was dead set on figuring out
how to do this. Implementing Socratic
Seminars into my classroom was a something I wanted to use to further
student-led mathematical discussion in the classroom.

I started by observing a colleague in the English department,
Jordan Kohanim. Jordan and I had taught together for about 10 years at two
different schools, and she was and is one of the most creative and engaging
teachers I have ever known. I know this not only from the standpoint of
working with her, but also because she had taught my son in high school and
impassioned him to join and participate in debate. Upon observing one of her Socratic seminars, I was fascinated at
the process, and immediately my wheels started turning. I knew I could implement this discussion
process into math; I just wanted to find the right opportunity with content.

Well, then late fall in the school year happened, and I lost
sight of my goal for a few months.
Second semester gave me more energy to start thinking about it
again. I decided the right audience for
launch was my Accelerated GeometryB/Advanced Algebra courses, which consisted of 9

^{th}and 10^{th}grade level students. Students started their geometry units in their previous honors course, and they finished the rest of the geometry last year with me. In this process, Georgia students often times end up taking their state test in Geometry well after they are finished with the content; this was the case with our students. Because students needed to review the geometry content before taking the state test last May, I thought this would also be a great way to “spruce up” review of previously learned topics in a way that embedded several concepts into problem solving tasks. I also felt implementing with previously learned content would help to develop the process of the seminars into mathematics.
In planning
the seminars, I chose 2 students who I
have heard talking about Socratic seminars in other classes and seemed excited
about doing them. I met with them after
school and brainstormed ideas with them including what they felt would be
improved methods to maximize student engagement; basically, their wish list
from having experienced Socratic seminars in
other classes. Their ideas were
monumental in my planning process and
helped the implementation of Socratics in our classroom to go smoothly and result in great
conversations.

**How I Structured the Seminars:**

Socratic Seminars typically have these types of structures
in the classroom with 2-3 circles for participation; I like to call them tiers. This is similar to the set-up in my classroom.

Our seminars were set up in 3 tiers with 2 tiers involved in
“discussion of the math”. I have a video
of it, but was not able to get it transferred to google photo archive in time
for the first Blaugust!

I decided also to implement 2 more separate roles that I
thought would work well with a math Socratic Seminar. (Scribe and Computador)

Tier 1: This group is the oral discussion group. Members of
this group are allowed

to have their Geometry
interactive notebooks only for reference
and no writing

utensils. There is a
lead person designated to this group who leads
out discussion

and manages the flow of the mathematical conversations
taking place. The group

leaders were
nominated and voted on the day before the seminar.

Tier 2: This group is the written discussion
group. Members of this group have

white
boards to share mathematical ideas
with the discussion circle and may

also reference their geometry notebooks. They may only write
and share ideas

via marker and white
board. The white boards are held up in order to share

mathematical ideas for the discussion group to
integrate into the mathematical

discussion.

Tier 3: Each member of this group is assigned to one
member of the discussion group.

The members in this group record
the details of mathematical ideas shared by a

specifically assigned discussion member.
Members of this group quote other

members and indicate whether or not the shared ideas
contribute to the problem

solving process. Their biggest job is checking
for relevance in the mathematics

being discussed.

Computador: One
student is assigned to the front
of the room with a calculator.

This is
the only student with a
calculator and doing calculations as

requested by the discussion group. The computador
is also recording

answers on the hard
copy of the problem worksheet. The computador
may collaborate verbally only with the scribe.

Scribe: One
student is assigned to front of the room to draw on the projected

image of the hard copy of
the problem as requested by the discussion group.

They
may also write clarifying points
made by the discussion group.

In the
video, the students are asking the scribe to label parts of the figure

to make discussion
easier. The scribe does not contribute
to the

discussion group rather, they provide
visual clarity to the problem being discussed.

**The Process**

All
tiers of
students are given a paper copy of
the problem to be discussed.
Tiers 1 and 2 have a hard copy of the discussion problem, and they
reference their geometry interactive notebooks to be thinking of the process of
solving. Tier 3 students
must read the problem in order to
follow along with the ideas that the discussion member they are assigned to
shares. They must know if their assigned person is producing valid and
quality mathematical ideas that contribute to the problem solving. 5 minutes are given for students to study the
problem before discussion begins.

After 5
minutes, the leader of the discussion group starts the discussion of the
problem and invites the discussion by other members in the discussion
group. Each member of the discussion
group is expected to talk but not over-dominate the conversations to prohibit
other members sharing ideas. Members of
Tier 3 are crossing out a letter of the word GEOMETRY every time their assigned person talks as
well as quoting their responses.

After all
parts of the muti-task problem are completed and recorded by the computador, the seminar is
closed. I collect the evaluation sheets
from Tier 3, and ask the group to clean up materials for the next class.

**The Preparation**

Since second
semester began, the students had been reviewing geometry remotely through
keeping an interactive geometry notebook
of notes and assignments distributed by
our Accel Geometry PLC. This notebook
was intended for
use in the seminars, to prepare for their Milestones EOC, and to keep in
the future for SAT and ACT preparation
in coming years. The
students have also been working on review problems since we returned from
spring break as well as constructions of
geometric figures in the computer lab that
went into their geometry notebooks.
They were busy!

I designed
the first seating chart (they never saw this of course) into the following
categories: strong-skills/dominant,
strong-skills/quiet, proficient-skills/dominant, proficient-skills/quiet, developing-skills/dominant, and developing-skills/quiet. This helped me to really think about what
students really talk versus students I
need to prompt more at all levels. I then
drew from this list to integrate even
amounts of each of those six
classifications into each of the 3 tiers for the first seminar. Because we did 3 Socratic Seminars before the
EOC, each student was able to rotate to each role by the time we were done.

**Reflection**

This was one
of the most amazing things I have done in my classroom! I was amazed at all of the conceptual
understanding and connections that were encompassed by the discussions in
the seminars. The students truly worked
together to problem solve and did a great job of listening to others
contributions and integrating them into
the process needed to solve the task. The
first tier also utilized the white board contributions of the 2

^{nd}tier and even referenced their class mates by name to give them credit. From discussing things like unit conversions, special right triangles versus regular triangles, and which measurement to us for each situation, I loved that the seminars provided a way for the students to pull the geometry concepts together to make sense of how they a used in out in the world rather than just in textbooks and review materials. The problem I have uploaded here involves a barn and a silo, and there were also great conversations about the materials for a barn and whether or not the silo is ever completely filled to the top. I was so intrigued by the curiosity they showed in the problem-solving process, and it is something I will continue to do in my classroom this year.
On next blog
I will discuss how a more informal Socratic seminar developed in my support
class after the geometry seminars in the other classes. This was equally amazing in a different
way. I will also talk about ideas for building
and improving on the seminars for this year.

Wow! Thank you so much for writing up your process. I've done something very informal, but similar and also have visited Humanities classes for inspiration. I'm excited to try out the three tiers and also the idea of a scribe at the board. Great suggestions! Thank you1

ReplyDeleteYou are welcome and thanks for reading! My. Next blog will talk about my informal Socratic from my support class-I will send it to you.

DeleteWOW! Love the idea of Socratic Seminar in math class ... but never figured out how to pull it off. I look forward to more posts!

ReplyDeleteI have to echo Jasmine and Beth - WOW! I've done Socratic Seminars with my AVID classes, but never figured out how to pull them off in math. Thank you so much for the detailed write-up!

ReplyDeleteThank you Beth and Druin for reading and the great feedback. I truly loved doing the socratics and cannot wait to keep using them this year. Next post coming soon:)

ReplyDelete