Preparing a Text for Socratic Seminar

There are many ways to prepare a text for Socratic Seminar, but they rely on noticing elements of the text, particularly those that are interesting or confusing. There are many systems for such "Close Reading," but my personal favorite is Notice & Note by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. The goal of preparing a text is ultimately to activate curiosity and  wonder in the reader. This is why so many Socratic Seminar teachers have students practice crafting and generating their own questions. Most teachers know to have students highlight important passages, use sticky notes, and mark texts with symbols in the margin, but there are a lot of other tasks students should be doing in order to best prepare for a Socratic Seminar dialogue. Here are some examples. 

Marking the Text

Underline interesting points and ideas

Use a vertical line in the margin for marking long passages

Use a star in the margin to mark for a test or quiz

Use numbers in the margin for sequences or lists

Cite page numbers when similarities are mentioned

Circle key words or phrases

Write questions and comments in the margin

Highlight important passages

Interpreting the Text

Define vocabulary words

Do background research

Draw an illustration or map

Organize sections so that they make more sense

Understand the author’s key or specialized words

Define the problem the author is trying to solve

Paraphrase the author’s important points

Do not agree or disagree until you know you understand

Make connections to your personal life

Make connections to other ideas and texts


Being Critical

Show where the author seems uninformed

Show where the author seems misinformed

Show where the author seems illogical

Show where the author’s account seems incomplete



Image by Tumisu - Pixabay


pre-seminar, Socratic Seminar

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