Socratic Circle in Practice

Last week, we got to try out the Socratic Circle method for ourselves. It’s something that, as a school librarian, I think I might facilitate with students or my colleagues or at least recommend to teachers to do with their classes. We did have an in-depth discussion on the Prensky article about banning paper books on university campuses. What was interesting is that we talked about the contents of the article, but we mostly talked about Prensky and his intent in writing the piece. Right off the bat, Erin asked if we thought it was satire or a serious piece. It did seem awfully extreme to be his actual opinion, and yet he seemed way too earnest at the end for me to think of it as satire. The class argued back and forth, pulling evidence from the text to back up their opinions. We never came to a conclusion, since we can’t truly know what Prensky was thinking; but the beauty of the Socratic circle is that it is about the discussion of the ideas more than it is about finding a right or wrong answer.

It was interesting that we got to the heart of the article with the first question that someone asked. In our book club, I hope to ease into it a little more and get our brains going before diving into the deepest issues. However, I think it was helped in part by the fact that we had already read the article a few times and reflected on it on our blogs. It was fresh in our minds, especially since it garnered such a strong negative reaction.

Though I like the Socratic Seminar, in our class I thought that it was hard to participate based on the sheer size of the group. It is hard to get a word in with 20 or so people all trying to talk about a controversial article. However, everyone did get a chance to say at least one thing. This sort of activity would work much better with fewer students – maybe half as many? We will see on Thursday with the book clubs, since that is how many people we will have.

I’m really wondering how the book club will go. The pieces Krista and I chose will probably garner a strong reaction like the Prensky piece did. I’m curious to see how people will react to what we chose, and I wonder if we will be able to control the group. I hope that we have a meaningful discussion like we did in the Socratic circle.

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