When I taught ELA, I used Socratic seminar a lot. It was a way to have student-generated discussions and it was something that I learned during student teaching. In this post, I am going to give you some information and tips for using this in science class!
What is Socratic seminar?
It is a method of discussion inspired by Socrates. Socrates believed in order to teach people you would not give them answers. Rather you would ask questions and help them arrive at answers on their own.
So how does it work?
For ELA I had students prepare questions and evidence for something that we had read. This is a viable option for Science as well, however, I think it could also work to discuss a phenomenon or an experiment completed in class. This is where science Socratic seminar would be different. It would not be entirely literary based.
Before you try to implement a Socratic seminar, I think it would be very important to explain what evidence is in science. I have found this is the most tricky part for my students.
I would also go over the following guidelines and explicitly explain what will happen and how things will work.
Student Guidelines for Socratic Seminar:
1. Come prepared having read the required reading or completed the activity for discussion, and with some questions or topics to discuss.
2. Be an active listener and speaker. Contribute to the discussion.
3. One Voice – only one person can speak at one time.
4. Be respectful (even if you do not agree).
5. Use evidence or examples from your reading or activity.
6. Explain your answers – a simple yes or no is not acceptable you must explain.
Role of Student and Teacher
As a teacher, you will simply be a facilitator of the discussion. Students will be expected to generate the discussion. I usually have a checklist ready and I explain to my students that they must contribute to the discussion a set number of times. Then I just check off when they contribute.
Want to try it?
I am excited to try this in my classes and I hope you will try it too. Below is a resource to help you further (I created it for ELA teachers, but I think it is helpful for science too).
As I was flipping through Instagram a few weeks ago I came across a resource posted by the Crafty Science Teacher. At the time it was not a topic that I was teaching. Then, last week I got to that topic and remembered that resource. And I am so glad I did!
The resource that I ended up using was a boundary map and task cards for plate boundaries. In the past, I had used a generic map that I had students color-code and then some activities about how far the plates had moved. This map was different because it had all of the convergent, divergent and transform boundaries drawn for the students to color code. Then the task cards asked in-depth questions about the plate movement, type of crust and geological features. It was definitely beyond simple memorization questions. In order to answer the task cards, students had to apply their knowledge.
I recently got to chat with The Crafty Science Teacher Brianne!! She is super kind and had some great insights. Here are some of the questions I asked, followed by her answers:
- What grade do you teach? I teach 8th-grade science in Texas! I have been teaching for five years.
- What science standards do you use? We use TEKS, but my products align easily to the NGSS and other similar state standards.
- What is your favorite thing about teaching science? The one thing I love is every time we go into a new concept my kids have so many questions because they’re curious about things that happen in the real world. I actually we to school to become a meteorologist so I have a fairly good science background and I’m so glad I can answer most of their questions at times.
- What is your all-time favorite lesson to teach? It’s really hard to choose a favorite. The top of my list is anything weather, but anything earth or space science is my favorite. Chemistry is a close second on that list too! It’s really hard to choose.
- One fun fact about you or anything else you would like to share 🙂 I think that’s about it! Oh! my husband is also a teacher, a great math teacher, and is wanting to get in on my tpt store. So in the summer we will be collaborating and working on adding some middle school math activities in my store!
Based on this single purchase and chatting with her, I knew that I would be visiting her store for A LOT more! I highly recommend that you visit this new teacher-author.
Check out this Freebie from her Store!
I grew up watching CSI with my mom. I remember getting stuff done in my room and hearing the theme song and running to the living room to watch it! So, as I was brainstorming a fun way to review the steps of the scientific method, CSI immediately popped in my head.
Decorating for this was SUPER-easy and pretty cheap. I asked the custodians for some large trash bags. I cut those open to cover my desks. I purchased a backdrop from Amazon – it is a line-up. You can see it in the photo above. I then used some black paper and caution tape. Then the set that I purchased from TpT had some cute hand scanners and such (so I made all my students scan in).
Links (not affiliate links) to Decorative Items I Purchased:
When searching for content I actually purchased two separate products from TpT. It’s fun that we are able to find items on Tpt and we don’t have to always make things ourselves. I purchased two products but ultimately went with one of them. I’m going to share them both and then explain why I chose to use one opposed to the other.
The first one that I purchased was by teacher author EzPz-Science. I ended up not using this one, but I did love the setup. It has questions reviewing scientific method and then as you answer the questions you get clues about a suspect. In the end, you can put all the clues together to solve the case. If you want a less hands-on situation, then I recommend this. It is basically print and go! (click the photo on the right to go to snag this on TpT)
The one that I chose had them go through a series of investigations. They had to complete a shoeprint and fingerprint analysis, a chromatography of pen inks and finally, they had to figure out what an unknown white powder was. The students loved it and were able to see how the steps of the scientific method are used each day in an investigation.
If you would like to see more about the product I used – click the photo below:
My students loved CSI and so did I. As they came into the Crime lab I played the theme songs and set the tone for the day. I created a crime scene for them to observe and they had a real-life experience using the scientific method.
How do you review the scientific method? Let me know in the comments!