How to Prepare for a Socratic Seminar

Socratic Seminars are a highly motivating form of intellectual discussion common in middle and high schools. In some classes they are a big deal, and preparing for one can be a week long process. In history classes, it may require reading a few chapters, doing research online, or sifting through library books. In the end when you finally reach the discussion, it can be mentally rewarding. Be prepared, and your high grade will be doubly rewarding.


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    Read. Socratic Seminars are usually held in social studies classes, so reading is a huge help once it's actually discussion time. If your teacher gives you the topic beforehand, read all applicable chapters in your book, using sticky notes or another form of page marker to keep track of interesting, useful, or information filled sections. If your teacher doesn't give you the topic, you are probably going to be discussing a recent chapter. Read that chapter and any other chapter you think might be helpful.
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    Research the topic on the Internet. Use a search engine (such as Google or Yahoo) to find web pages with information on your topic. Bookmark or copy and paste pages with useful info.
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    Research library texts. Ask the librarian for help finding books or articles that might help you prepare. Borrow books that you know you'll be able to use again. Some libraries only allow you to borrow a certain number of books. If this is the case and you need more than is allowed, use a copy machine to get copies of the pages you need. This is also a solution for reference books, such as encyclopedias, that libraries generally don't loan out.
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    Make an outline of all of the information you have collected. This will help organize your thoughts, and, during the discussion, will allow you to quickly find the information you need. Include next to each new bit of information the place where the information was found and the page number. Some teachers will grade you based not only on what information you have, but whether you have evidence to back it up. Quoting well-known encyclopedias and textbooks is sure to give you those points.
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    Review all vocabulary from the applicable chapters. Teachers like to see you use the vocabulary you've learned. Don't go overboard during the discussion by using a vocabulary word in every sentence. Just know the words so when the opportunity arises you use them naturally.
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    Know the topic. Review all of your notes and read the chapters. The better you know the subject, the more you will be able to contribute to the discussion and the better your grade will be.
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    A Socratic Seminar is supposed to be a learning experience as well as a way to show your teacher you know what you're learning. It's not uncommon for a large debate to ensue over a topic. In the end, though, everyone comes out of it knowing more than when they went in. Socratic Seminars can open your mind to new ideas and bigger concepts. Try to enjoy it and keep an open mind.


  • Don't be nervous and just try your best to create productive questions or answers.
  • Always review everything beforehand.
  • Never wait until the last minute to begin. Start as soon as your teacher informs you of the upcoming Seminar.
  • Try to connect what you're discussing with the outside world or your own experiences. This will help you see the greater meanings of what you're talking about.


  • Don't research during the Seminar. You should already know the material when you get there.
  • Don't think you'll be able to cheat your way through this. You can't cheat in a Socratic Seminar.

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