Julius Caesar Socratic Seminar Part II: Violence in Society Discussion

If you are interested in the modern interpretation of Socrate's method of discussion outside of the classroom, check out Socrates Cafe by Christopher Phillips.

If you are interested in the modern interpretation of Socrate’s method of discussion outside of the classroom, check out Socrates Cafe by Christopher Phillips.  Image linked here.

Renee Jackson and I worked for a number of weeks to prepare for a Socratic Seminar using the method outlined in this post about students coaching students in Socratic Seminar.  In class, we showed students this video called “Teaching the N Word” from the learning channel first.  In addition, we used this Introductory Power Point outlining the roles and rules for the activity.

Before the seminar, Jackson had students read multiple non-fiction text sources (linked here) relating to essential questions for the unit.  Here are additional questions we gave students:

  • What are the causes of violence in society?
  • What social factors increase the chance of violence in society?
  • What personal factors increase the chance that someone will be violent?
  • Is violence something that some people can’t help?
  • Is violence ever justified (especially as a means to fight against oppression)?
  • What does it mean to be oppressed?  Give examples from the texts read.
  • Do you support violence as a means to fight oppression?  Why or why not?
  • What effects might violence have on society?  The individual?

Students prepared by reading through the questions and reviewing the articles and literary pieces (Julius Caesar and Lather and Nothing Else) to gather textual evidence.  For credit, students had to record five pieces of textual evidence to use in response to questions of their choice before participating in the discussion.

Each student had one day in the inner circle and had a student-coach on the outer circle who recorded the points for participation.  At “half-time” students met with their coach to get feedback.  The next day, students switched roles with their partner.  If a partner was absent, students were assigned duties for the day such as tally keeper, transition tracker or “big idea” board.  These roles also shared out and gave feedback during half-time.

This activity took about one class period to introduce.  Then, students were given 1-2 days to prepare notes.  The seminar itself lasted 2-3 days.

Jackson was interested in improving students speaking skills and use of textual evidence.  We were most surprised by students ability to use the texts in the context of conversations and use transitions to build on previous ideas.  In this way, we both found the seminar very successful.  I think with more practice, the depth of ideas would improve as students become more comfortable with the process.  We plan on trying this again later in the year.

Here are some resources used in the seminar:

Here are some additional resources for the duties in the seminar:

Lastly, this nameplate was created by a junior high teacher and given to me by Ellen Weibel to use on student desks:


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