Do You Have 21st-Century Skills to Help Your Students Succeed? Do Your Students Have 21st-Century Skills to Think for Themselves? The Power of the Socratic Classroom has the answers you are looking for—answers that will supply the strategies to show students how to succeed into the future. A future that has unknown products, unidentified jobs, and unanticipated challenges. In Socratic Seminar, teachers shift to the role of facilitator, where they help their students develop the collaborative interpersonal skills, the critical and creative thinking skills, and the speaking and listening skills to face the upcoming challenges of the 21st century.
Charles Fischer has taught in public and private schools in a variety of settings, from rural Maine to inner city Atlanta. In the past 20 years, he has worked with a wide range of students from 4th grade to AP English and has been nominated for Teacher of the Year four times. He has his Master’s degree in Teaching & Learning from the University of Southern Maine, and received his B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Binghamton University. His latest book, The Power of the Socratic Classroom, has won four awards, including the NIEA Best Education Book. His first novel, Beyond Infinity, won a 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award bronze medal (YA fiction). His areas of expertise are Socratic Seminar, Active Listening, Inquiry, Teaching & Learning, and Critical & Creative Thinking. He is currently working on a book of poetry, a short story collection, and several novels.
There are a lot of complicated structures out there for crafting or generating opening questions, but the idea is actually quite simple: ask a genuine question the answer to which you do not know. That's it! If you, as the teacher, are genuinely curious with your question, then it will likely work well as an opening question for Socratic Seminar. In addition, if the answer(s) can be justified in the text, then quality dialogue should ensue!
The Power of the Socratic Classroom
The opening question launches the formal dialogue part of a Socratic Seminar. Because the goal is to have genuine conversation, the opening question should definitely not have a right answer. Instead, it should challenge students to look closely at the text and to think about the ideas and issues in meaningful ways. A good opening question is immediately provocative and engaging for most students, and leads to conversation anchored in the text. A bad opening question polarizes students and potentially results in arguing and debating. A good opening question opens up lines of thinking toward multiple, justifiable answers. A bad opening question forces students down a narrow path of thinking, toward assumptions or pre-established agendas.