I was a last-minute fill in for a small conference section on using podcasts in the classroom this past Saturday. The conference organizers contacted me about a week before and asked if I was available to teach something and, of course, I said yes. I’d actually taught podcasting to other educators before… back in 2011. A lot has changed since then!
I had a great time using a little bit of my old information, plus a lot of my old podcasts that I had created, or my students had created, that were all still saved in my Google Drive.
I used podcasts as a method of content delivery for students. As part of a unit on Walden I realized there was information I wanted students to know and apply, but didn’t want to use class time for short lectures. Instead I chose to record short podcasts to encourage note-taking/active listening and be able to reach students even if they are absent during the week. This was my first foray into a flipped classroom and podcasts are still a great alternative to screencasting for flipped and blended learning.
I know a lot of people only see how technology wedges in between people, noting how groups will sit together and stare at devices rather than speaking. It’s a problem, I get it. But I am a proponent of using technology to bring people together, to see how it can be used to connect, and I love stories about how that happens.
I was lucky enough to catch a story on NPR’s Morning Edition with Rachel Martin and Newberry Award winner Kwame Alexander. Back in January, the segment asked teachers to share a prompt with students. It was just a simple “Love is…” but the show received responses from over 2,000 classrooms across the country.
And then… magic happened. Like he has in the past, Kwame Alexander wrote a crowdsourced/paella/casserole/GUMBO poem for Valentine’s Day. “‘Kids finding their voice and lifting it up, for love,’ he tells NPR. “Nothing more powerful than that.’”
From a simple prompt to a love poem for families, teachers, pets, movies, food, and expectations. This prompt, and this technology, a radio program, brought people together and made connections through words and feelings. It created a shared experience and published creation for students and teachers across the country.
Listen to the poem – or read it to your class – and see how your students connect to the writers and the common experiences.
Black History Month can be a tough recognition to include in lessons, especially if you are not black. This evening I am hosting a Twitter chat for #akedchat on this topic so we can discuss how to include Black History lessons in our instruction year round, not just during February. Here are some resources for getting started, and doing it right. The first, Teaching Tolerance, helped me create the questions for this evening’s chat.
A Gallery Walk is a structured discussion during which small groups rotate and respond to prompts or questions posted around the classroom.
There’s nothing quite like a gallery walk to get students up, moving, reading, evaluating, and collaborating to assist others. But what if you are moving toward a paperless classroom? Or want to keep a better record of the work that was done? Or have some other unique situation?
It’s easy to move the gallery walk that you would have completed on paper to Google Slides.
In one slideshow, create a slide for each group. In the middle the group can add their thesis/topic/discussion question or whatever needs to be peer reviewed. Off to the sides, create a “Glow” and a “Grow” text box so reviewers can tell what they like and what could change. Finally, add a text box that allows reviewers to give suggestions for how the thesis/topic/discussion question should read.
This is still one of my favorite lessons. Want to flip some lessons for next year? Watch this space during the summer for all of the tips and tricks to flipping your classroom one learning/lesson/unit at a time.
I could have written this. Ask a Tech Teacher’s post of the top ten myths about tech is perfect and accurately captures all of my frustrations when talking to other teachers about how to integrate technology into high quality instruction.
A well-structured Socratic seminar, and the learning that leads up to it, helps keep students excited and engaged in learning. Classroom discussion has a .82 effect size on John Hattie’s “list of influences on achievement” because dialogue itself is engaging. It gives students opportunities to interact with one another that are sometimes rare in classes.
Most of us scaffold work for students so that they have incremental steps to take in order to achieve a goal (note: you can over-scaffold – think of how annoying really shallow steps are). The steps that culminate in a Socratic seminar support skills in close reading, inquiry and question writing, short written responses, small group discussion, and even text selection.
Questioning has an effect size of .48. When students have the opportunity to dive deeper, through posing open-ended questions, they usually become more attached to a subject. The Question Formulation Technique supports the process of asking questions – these questions can become the discussion questions or the seminar or be used and investigated at any point in the learning.
7) Differentiation of tasks
Educators have students with a wide-range of abilities in classes. Differentiating tasks that lead to a Socratic seminar helps ensure that individual needs are met and that student small groups have diverse resources to support preliminary discussion (aka coaching groups). The diversity of experiences makes seminars rich – not agreeing creates more productive discussion.
6) Close reading
Socratic seminar depends on students reading and understanding a text in order to discuss aspects of the text with others. Teaching close reading, a skill that is essential to success in other classes as well, is a vital scaffold. Using annotation to get students to cue into what they think and feel, not to mention what they say, is engaging and helps support other learning.
Reading closely and answering authentic questions through inquiry supports students as they learn to build arguments. Being able to cite text in order to support an opinion (kind of like I did above when I cited Hattie) is a necessary skills to getting ready for college and careers. Supporting an opinion with text evidence makes seminars an academic task that goes beyond a regular old class discussion of a topic.
4) Analysis and Synthesis
Socratic seminars require analysis of at least one text, but bringing together multiple texts, and discussing them together, requires synthesis skills. This means more prep time leading up to the seminar but the combining of texts is extremely dynamic and the takes students have on those ideas will make you proud. Often discussion is a great way to build skills in analyzing and synthesizing because students get to hear from their peers and learn how others approach complex topics, making students engage rather than just comply, with tasks.
3) Change it up!
Your Socratic seminar does not have to look the same every time. You can use the Harkness method (this provides students clear & high expectations, an effect size of 1.44), a fishbowl discussion, open chair, BRAWL, and any number of other techniques. Changing up your approach keeps things fresh for students and helps to differentiate instruction to include more students. Find methods that challenge students and methods that embrace them – they may be the same method!
2) Build relationships
In some classes, but especially large classes, students might go a whole year without knowing one another’s names. Socratic seminar can require that students respond directly to classmates (making nameplates for desks/tables helps) so that, over time, they learn the names of students who sit across the room or are in different cliques. The discussion itself can assist in building connections and empathy for others, not to mention help the teacher know the students in order to better meet their needs over time.
And, the NUMBER ONE reason to use Socratic seminar? It meets ALL the standards
When I look through my “Skinnied” CCSS I can see that seminar, and the tasks that build to seminar or extend it further (like using the questions for research), meets every. single. standard.
What’s your favorite reason for using Socratic seminar in classroom instruction? Or, what’s stopping you?