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In Jennifer Montgomery’s seventh-grade English class in Eminence, Kentucky, there are no students zoning out during class discussions. That’s because she expects the students in the outer circle—the ones who are traditionally supposed to observe and actively listen to the students in the inner circle—to look for opportunities to jump in when they have something to add to the conversation. She reserves a single empty seat in the inner circle for these contributors, labeled “the hot seat,” and it’s made all the difference for bumping up participation in her Socratic seminars. “It propels the discussion,” she says. “Sometimes it turns the discussion in a different direction. And it keeps them on their toes.”
For more strategies on managing Socratic circles, read Mary Davenport’s article for Edutopia, “Building a Culture of Student-Led Discussion,” or watch this Edutopia video, “Scaffolding Discussion Skills With a Socratic Circle.”