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As teacher educators, we need to show preservice teachers the types of text connections students can make and to consider importance based on the objectives the Socratic seminar will ask students to accomplish. One type of question is not “better” than another; teachers need to examine what their goal is for asking a question. Are they asking questions to motivate students to pick up the text? If so, creating personal and world connections are vital. Is a personal connection important to understanding a theme? Do students have elements in their world that relate to the text? Have they read texts in the past that will facilitate understanding in a current text? These are questions for the individual teacher to answer as only she knows her class and is familiar with the literature. She knows what is needed for students to understand this text in relation to others and in relation to their world. Exciting students about the text and motivating them to read is important, but in this case the PSTs did not choose to use the Socratic discussion as a vehicle to help students justify their answers by using the text as evidence. This is a skill that students must learn in order to be successful in discourse about text. An opportunity exists in the Socratic discussion to have students use the text when making assertions. When teachers ask text-to- world questions or text-to-self questions to motivate students, they can add a follow up question like, “Tell me what in this text made you think of that?” or “What in this text relates to what was on the news last night?”When students become accustomed to making the connections to the text itself, it creates a higher level of evaluation and relationship. The Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools (1993) highlighted the way one English teacher used Socratic discussion in his classroom: McDermott’s critical principles of teaching: teenagers speaking respectfully, doing homework responsibly, entering class prepared to contribute. From McDermott’s point of view, depth of knowledge is gained through serious attention to homework, library research, reading current articles, and good books. ‘They have to have depth before they can reach higher order thinking. The homework prepares them, gives them good stuff to chew on, like a good meal. Then you can sit back, go into the living room and get dessert, that’s the seminar.’ (p. 3). McDermott shows us that we can raise student discussion to a higher level if we structure the pre-work and discussion appropriately to make that type of discussion possible. An important consideration in teaching with Socratic seminars is the purpose and objectives for holding the seminar and then preparing questions that will lead students to where the teacher wants them to explore and expand their knowledge. In order to increase depth of knowledge in reading, it would benefit teachers to have students do preparation work by thinking about key themes and exploring them in the text before having the Socratic discussion.
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Reading Matters Reserch Matters
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