Monday, March 22, 2010
On February 3, 2010, it was my pleasure to observe Kym and her students engaged in a socratic circle. The socratic teaching method is based on Vygotzky's work that focuses on the zone and proximal development and the expert other coaching through talking. Specific strategies, coupled with labels, are modeled, practiced, and eventually internalized. As I watched Kym and her students, I was once again reminded of the importance of language - collaborative language - in our classrooms when teaching critical thinking.
Kym's lesson was well chosen and timed. Her students were preparing for a writing assignment - persuasive nonfiction - and were expected to use nonfiction sources. Students created a double circle - the inner circle was comprised of sources while the outer sources could ask questions. Inner circle members described their sources and how it supported their position - yeah or nay - on a current, pertinent issue. The outer circle could reflect, ask for clarity or challenge. The level of thinking was incredible. While students spoke, Kym kept track of the patterns and amount of interchange (this would determine their grades) - facilitating.
As I listened, it was intriguing to follow the interaction between students, expanding and clarifying understandings. Papers were being written as students spoke - with their audience giving real, timely, pertinent feedback.
In this time of increased pressure to achieve on test scores - as measured through NCLB - it is comforting to see a teacher who is willing to take the time to teach students to explore pertinent issues in their world and intelligently consider the pros and cons. This will definitely prepare them for life. Kudos to Kym!