Sunday, March 2, 2014

Connecting to Common Core Through Socratic Seminars

Today we were asked how has the move towards "Common Core" affected your role as a counselor.
For me the most obvious way is that I feel more limited with my time, it's simply not as easy to take a student out of the classroom even for 15 minutes.

Additionally, I think counselors have been doing "Common Core" for a long time. I could be wrong, but I feel like Common Core is a push towards independent learning and problem solving. Well don't we do that every day? (I won't tell you how to fix this problem with your friend, but I can help you pick and practice an option that works best for you. I can't fix what's happening at home, but I can help you develop coping skills.)

For me the best way to reach my older students, meet Common Core standards, and to really see growth in how my students treat each other is through Socratic Seminars.

I can't encourage enough you to use Socractic Seminars with your students (grades 5 up). Imagine running a small group, but reaching triple the amount of students. Imagine creating a positive classroom environment, tackling bullying, practicing social skills, and encouraging higher order thinking skills in 45 minutes. It's great, but the beginning stages can be frustrating so here are my helpful tips:

Watch, Listen Learn: 
If possible watch a seminar before you venture out on your own. The amazing Angela Bunyi (Academic Interventionist and Teacher) let me watch her in action before we did one together. I was so impressed by how smoothly it ran in her classroom, so I must admit I was a little blind sided when my first solo seminar hit speed bump after speed bump. She taught me a lot! I could never duplicate nor do I want to even try and top her expertise so read her article on doing a seminar here:

It's going to practice: 

Socratic seminars take a certain flow and self control. We are asking a lot of our students (and even ourselves). They have to hold their thoughts/opinions until we have asked for them, they must practice discussing not debating, they can't have side conversations, we can't jump in a save them! Seminars bring up uncomfortable feelings, and they need to practice coping with those. For example, at the end of my last seminar I got feedback from several students that they just didn't like it. When I looked closer at the students that said they didn't care for this lesson I realized they fell into one (or both) of two categories: they had stated opinions that differed from the majority and/or they were students that loved concrete answers (they were uncomfortable in the gray they wanted 1+1=2 always). Practice, practice, practice.

Be "OK" with silence: 
  Seminars are different for us all. Student aren't used to talking without raising their hands, teachers and counselors aren't used to not talking at all, many students are used to sneaking through entire class periods without being asked to say anything, and seminars are discussions for which answers are uncertain. The first few times you start a seminar it might take a few long agonizing minutes to get the ball rolling, but it will get there- I promise.

Remind them of the rules often:
I did a seminar this week around an article a football team that was suspend for cyber bulling. One of the students in the group kept talking about how the coach must have made his decision because the evidence was so bad. I let her talk for a few minutes, but then jumped in (remember to avoid doing this often) to remind her about always connecting their thoughts with the text. I asked her to share with us what line of the article referenced the coaches wealth of evidence. It was in fact not there. Although she got embarrassed, I pointed out that this was an unbelievable learning opportunity for us all. I reminded them that our thoughts about an article are important, but we must ground them in text. She had found a fatal flaw in the article- that it really didn't give many details. Could you ask for a better lesson than having a student say "I am having a hard time forming an opinion, because I need more details about the story/situation." We are teaching them skills I wish more adults had.

Learn More here:

Touchstones Discussion Project

Get a copy of seminar rules, goals, and sayings here.

Find articles for your seminars here: a variety of articles from school uniforms, segregation, and so much more.

Ted Talks and Ted Ed- watch videos and get the transcripts on a variety of topics from happiness to body language.


Fear Is An Illusion-by Michael Jordan (your boys will love this)-


Character Education: Honesty/Cheating-



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