Social Discourse Socratic Seminar

ONLINE SOCRATIC SEMINAR:  Poisonwood Bible/Kite Runner (but can be used for any literary discussions).

Students: You will need the instructor e-mail ( and access to either Schoology (e-mail the instructor for a login as this particular page is not a private page) or go the instructor’s Blogger page for access.

Also, e-mail instructor so he can include you in Google Hangouts for that particular portion of the assignment. (The link currently will not function until you are added to the group!)


Students will create four to five original questions using Google Docs/Word. Submit those as an assignment to your instructor. Take TWO OF THESE and post them via their Schoology account on the discussion board.*

Use the following list below (in green)  to help with question creation. These questions will be posted on a discussion page in Schoology and also on Blogger.

(Instructors: Edmodo and Canvas also work well for the purpose of contained academic discussion. Instructors can opt for using Blogger or WordPress, but remember to follow safe conventions of discussion when using an open blog source. Also, instructors, be a presence! If you can not be available, set commentary moderation to instructor approval only, but do not let this set for too long as it stifles conversation).

Open-Ended Question: Write an insightful question about the text that will require proof and group discussion and “construction of logic” to discover or explore the answer to the question (give your opinion with textual support to prove the argument!).

Example #1: Why does Randy hesitate to take control of the governing of the town from the start? (from the Alas, Babylon)

Example #2: Why does Lucie Manette’s mother opt not to tell her about her father in prison?

World Connection Question: Write a question connecting the text to the real world.

Example #1: If you were given a short time to pack only your few most precious belongings to spend months with in hiding, what would you pack and why? (after reading Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl).

Example #2: Write about the “best of times, the worst of times” in your life/your world right now and why it fits this description. (Isn’t it obvious where that comes from!?!)

Example #3: Lucie Manette’s mother made the difficult decision not to tell her daughter about her father in prison.  What is a difficult decision made by one of your parents, and what criteria were considered in the decision making process?

Universal Theme/Core Question: Write a question dealing with a theme(s) of the text that will encourage group discussion about the universality of the text. Potential thematic issues from Ender’s Game include (but are not limited to) manipulation; betrayal; family teamwork; isolation; definition of friendship; appearance versus reality; religion/faith.

Example: How is Sydney Carton’s isolation self-imposed?

Literary Analysis Question: Write a question dealing with HOW the author chose to compose his literary piece.  How did the author manipulate point of view, characterization, diction, symbolism, figurative language (for example)?  How did he manipulate the English language to get his point and his story across?

Example #1: What is the purpose of the war motif in A Separate Peace?

Example #2: How does Dickens use the metaphors of the Jackal and the Lion?

POST GUIDELINES FOR…POSTING  (DOWNLOAD: socratic-seminar-rubric)

Provide posting guidelines for students — a brief checklist of how to behave online during the discussion. For example:

  • Post your original, unique thoughts
  • Do not merely agree or disagree with a comment without offering concrete reasons
  • Support your ideas with specific examples from text or other sources
  • Link to other websites when it can help expand the discussion
  • Do not use slang or emoticons
  • Spend time reading and reflecting on other comments
  • Post at least one comment for each question
  • Post clarifying questions as well as direct responses


Each student is to respond to at least three posts. If there are more than three posts for a particular set of questions, they should look for discussions that have not been responded to as yet.


The instructor is going to provide you with some core questions (see below) from the novels/texts. You will need to make a short presentation on ONE of the questions, providing a 3-5 minute audio commentary answering the question. By using Evernote, you can also include your notes and sources directly with your audio.

Share your link (note the video below for how to do so) in Schoology. Students should take time and comment on what was said in the audio commentary.

Poisonwood Bible Socratic Core Questions

Kite Runner Socratic Core Questions

STEP THREE:  “CONFERENCE CALL” (Ten Minute discussion)

We will be dividing into groups and having an online conference call via Google Hangouts. The group conversation MUST BE done with an instructor. You can use your computer, smartphone, or tablet for this exercise. Each student will need to have Google Hangouts on the technology of choice.
Then, for ten minutes, we will run through one to three questions from the text.  The instructor will screencast these and place them on Schoology for future use and review.


Google Hangout Etiquette 

In order to enjoy the distance conferencing experience rather than loathe it abide by some simple guidelines for etiquette.

Be Prepared

  • On your first visit, log in at least 10 minutes before the start of the meeting since plugins or updates might be required. Feel free to get set up and then leave the meeting window open while waiting for others to arrive. You can do other things on your computer as long as the meeting window remains open.
  • When participating in an audio conference from your desktop, use a headset instead of simply the audio on your computer. This prevents feedback. You won’t hear it, but others will.
  • Although technical problems may arise when you make a call, for the sake of conversational flow, try and do all technical adjustments such as audio levels at the beginning of the call. Adjusting your audio/video can be very distracting to the other party and this also derails the conversation.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, arrive late and then ask the presenter for technical help. If you arrive late and your audio isn’t working please sit quietly and prepare better the next time.

Lights, camera, action!

  • Speak clearly and articulate fully. The presenter will have participants in the room as well as online. You’ll be interacting with a facilitator in the room. The facilitator will relay your question or comment to the audience and the presenter. You’ll hear the answer over your audio. Use the chat feature in your online meeting application to pose your question or make a comment.
  • Don’t speak over people or interrupt.
  • Be responsible for your full participation. Stay engaged! It’s even more difficult to manage your own behavior in an online meeting or conference call because there might be an accountability piece missing.
  • Avoid making excessive background noise, like rustling papers. If you’re in your home office, we can hear your children, dogs, deliveries, television, etc. unless you mute your computer. Don’t forget to unmute if you want to add to the conversation.

Online Concept Source: Robert Barker, a veteran secondary English teacher and educational technology enthusiast.

Socratic Seminar question source and lessons:  Created by Cary L. Tyler


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