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An inquirED Blog

Socratic Seminar | Inquiry Lesson Plan Strategy

Updated: Apr 20

Download our Socratic Seminar Posters


Socratic Seminars encourage students to engage in open, respectful, and in-depth discussions about topics related to social studies, with the aim of promoting critical thinking, active listening, communication skills, and collaborative learning.


The What

Socratic Seminars require students to grapple with complex topics collaboratively. Through the process, students closely read a teacher-selected article, draw evidence from that reading, and then discuss their responses through a structured seminar with peers. Use this format to promote communication skills and encourage student agency in discussing issues from multiple perspectives.

The How

Download the "Socratic Seminar Guide" for additional support.

1. Prepare for the activity by establishing discussion questions for the seminar, and record each question at the top of its own chart paper.

  • Questions should be open-ended and geared toward exploring ideas, not finding answers.

2. Remind students that they can use evidence discovered in another lesson during this Socratic Seminar activity.

3. Distribute the selected article to each student and facilitate the first read by reading the text aloud as students follow along and make annotations in response to the discussion questions.

4. Divide students into pairs.

5. Facilitate the second read of the article:

  • Student pairs reread the article, comparing their annotations as they read.

6. Regroup as a whole class and set expectations for the seminar.

  • Students may use a 3 Before Me mindset, allowing 3 other students to speak before they share again.

  • Guide students to assess the body language of classmates to see if others are about to share.

  • Give guidance about what students can do if 2 students begin speaking at the same time; they can decide who will continue and who will go second.

7. Facilitate the discussion:

  • Present the first discussion question. Take notes on the chart paper as students discuss their responses.

  • When discussion about the first question winds down, review the notes on the chart paper for accuracy.

  • Repeat these steps with the remaining questions as time allows.

About inquirED

inquirED was founded by teachers with the mission of bringing inquiry-based social studies to every classroom. Inquiry Journeys, inquirED’s elementary social studies curriculum, is used in schools and districts across the country to help students develop deep social studies content knowledge and build the inquiry skills that are essential for a thriving democracy.

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