Socratic Seminar for PLT #3 – The Road to a One Page Instructional Improvement Target Continues..


As many of you know, my high school is in the process of developing a One Page Instructional Improvement Target this year that defines who we are, what we want for our students, and how we plan to focus our efforts to attain success.  (See Jim Knight’s book Unmistakable Impact pgs. 56-77 for more information on One Page Targets.) Last week, we held the 3rd session in our book study of The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn.  Each session, the facilitators have tried to model various instructional strategies that are effective in the classroom.  This session, we held the entire session as a Socratic Seminar.

I have to confess, I was nervous about the whole Socratic Seminar idea…. I had visited several classes where it was used… I have participated in many graduate classes where this was the primary means of instruction… But…. I had never been responsible for the planning and execution of it. Yikes! Thankfully, the head of the English department is part of our PLT and mentored me as I planned this session.  Without her support, I’m not sure it would have been as effective as it was.


We began the session by playing “Teacher Bingo” (while we ate a yummy breakfast a couple of the members brought in 🙂  ) They simply marked the ones that applied to them and those who “bingoed” got a little candy bar.  I reproduced this from one I saw on Pinterest, but cannot find the original source so I can give credit 😦 It was a good way to begin and really started the group dialogue as several people shared funny stories.



Not only did we utilize the Socratic Seminar exclusively for this session, we also decided not to use any technology either.  They did have paper copies of the agenda and a couple of activities however 🙂 … On a side note, I had forgotten how terrible my handwriting is on the board O.O Eek! 😛

IMG_0649Our agenda for this session was simple and very short.  We also did not plan very many activities either.  We just felt the dialogue among the team was what was most important for this session.

Every session, we work to strengthen the collaborative culture within our team and discuss ways to have this spill over into the school culture as a whole.  This session, we examined the article “The Two Minute Relationship Builder” by Sarah McKibben (the link is here  ).  It is an excellent concept of getting to know a student (especially one who might sometimes be a discipline problem) by talking to them two minutes per day, ten days in a row.  We thought this was in line with our mission this year of developing relationships with the students in our school.  As we read, we completed a “Here’s What/ So What/ Now What” chart.  After discussing our thoughts with a partner, we shared with the group.  There was some amazing dialogue after reading this article!

The main part of the book study covered pgs. 73-96 in The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. This was the part we had originally planned for the Socratic Seminar, however, the entire session developed into one 🙂 .  Here is the main “plan” I developed to guide this part of the meeting …


The participants in the session never saw this part.  We simply began this part of the session with the quote from the book “Nothing inspires people more than an example directly experienced or indirectly learned from a real-life incident” (The Fred Factor, p. 88). Then, the group was asked if they felt this was important.  At first, 2 or 3 participants were called on and asked, then, the conversation just flowed naturally.  Questions were chosen from the list of possible seminar questions based on the responses of the participants.  At the end of the this part of the session, we didn’t have time to do the closing part (see above) because we wanted to move into the One Page Target section.

The last session ended with affinity mapping of what we think effective instruction and high performing student learning looks like in our school.  Here are the results from our affinity mapping:

IMG_0654 IMG_0655








We revisited these affinity maps and the participants of the session had an opportunity to add/delete anything from them.  Then we focused on the Community Building section of the One Page Target.  Our goal for this PLT session was to come away with some non-negotiables in regards to teacher, as well as student behaviors.  After refining our thoughts, we unanimously arrived at 4 statements to define our stance on Community Building.



Next PLT session, November 19th, we will continue fine-tuning our work and will attempt to delve further into the area of Assessment.

Other helpful links on using Socratic Seminars    socratic seminar  socratic seminar teaching channel video



About Edgy Instruction

Science Teacher (Biology, AP Biology, and Forensic Science), Anatomy Professor, and former Instructional coach.
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