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.
One thing that a lot of teachers seem to forget is that the central artifact for discussion can actually be a pairing or even a text set. Since the "text" is meant to be rich and complex, adding another to create a pair or adding several as a set, instantly creates greater complexity. Students can then compare and contrast, synthesize, investigate themes, and much more.
Some teachers are worried that text sets, in particular, will take too much discussion time, but that has not been my experience. I have seen plenty of classes navigate five or six texts at once, adeptly switching back and forth between them to cite evidence. Obviously, older students can do this more easily, but even upper elementary students can handle a text pairing, middle schoolers can handle 3-5 texts, and advanced high school students can even manage 7 perhaps more texts.
The Power of the Socratic Classroom
THE “TEXT” OR artifact for a Socratic Seminar can be anything that will promote a complex thinking process—typically a well-chosen poem, a short piece of fiction, an excerpt from a novel, a work of art, a deep question or quotation, a geometric proof, a movie clip, a song, etc. In less formal settings, a seminar could even be about how a hole appeared in a fence or the “story” that is told from tracks in a sandbox.