Saturday, May 11, 2013

Understanding the Socratic Method

Before last year, I had never heard of the Socratic Method. I mean, I should have, it is a classic teaching method and one that has been around for a very long time. But I didn't really care to know much about even when it WAS mentioned in my teaching circle. I can't really explain why either. I enjoy reading about teaching methods, I enjoy collaborating with other secondary teachers, and I really enjoy hearing about other teacher's successes in the classroom. So, why I never went deeper into this method is really a mystery. However, when I had to start clearing my credential for the State of California and I had to create an inquiry to test in the classroom, I remembered about this method and thought I would give it a shot.

WOW!! I can't even explain how much this helped kids in my class! I created a worksheet to help students understand what was expected of them and how to find the information in the novel they were analyzing. I also spent a great deal of time researching how to apply the method. What good is something without understanding the how and why of its application? So, I spent a couple of hours combing the internet and the EnglishNing community on what to do and how to do it, adding to my worksheet little by little until I came up with a final product.

In this worksheet, there is a section that asks students to find examples of literary devices that they chose from their notes. What this does is help students recognize literary devices in actual text instead of applying their definitions to tired explanations or examples. Next, there is a section that asks for students to explain character development, adding new details as they read, explaining how the characters develop and change. By choosing characters and watching them change and develop during the course of the story, they are processing what they are reading and analyzing the actual characters instead of the events that happen around them. This also leads into the next section which asks students to analyze relationships within the text and how they shift and change depending on the events in the book. Finally, there is a section asking students to ask their own questions about the text in three forms but about the same theme. Student use the factual, inductive, and analytical formats to create their questions and students become familiar with the different question formats this way.

This picture is of the process before the actual Socratic Method on paper. By asking students to go deeper into the material, they are able to find and make the necessary connections.

I have to say, after using this method of analyzing with my students for Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier, I have seen such an amazing difference in their ability to find and actually understand the more complex concepts of the novel. I have actually seen some of my Below Basic and Far Below Basic students achieve some amazing intellectual ability because they were required to do it themselves instead of the typical teacher-led, student-answered format. I will be using this method from now on, especially with more complex novels and stories.

Click HERE to see my Socratic Method Worksheets in my store.

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