There are two important reasons for including a sharing stage—like a think-pair-share—before the formal Socratic Seminar. The first is that many students are too shy to share in a larger group, but they will share in smaller settings, especially with friends. This can provide them with important practice in formulating ideas and speaking to others. As Maria Nichols, author of Comprehension through Conversation, writes: “In small group, children often develop confidence by taking risks they would not take in whole group situations. As children take risks and realize that, with the support of the teacher and others in the group, they are able to communicate their thinking and construct meaning, they begin to speak more often.” The second is that students who haven’t yet made connections to the text can hear ideas and questions from others. This will give them additional material that they might need in order to effectively contribute.
Students must practice sharing, just as they need to practice any skill. Don’t assume they can turn-and-talk to each other effectively about a text. Set a time limit for the sharing so that there is a sense of urgency and importance. Thirty seconds to a minute is usually enough for pairs, and maybe a minute to two minutes for small groups—any longer and students will probably wander. Consider choosing a few pairs or groups to share their collective thoughts with the entire class, so that this added pressure will help keep them focused.
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