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"In the round": Shakespeare Socratic Seminar

Teachers' Rating:
  3 ratings

J. Neagle after H. Fuseli. Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1. Engraving, 1803.

March 2013
Kimberly Dickstein teaches English at Haddonfield Memorial High School, Haddonfield, NJ

Plays/Scenes Covered
The Merchant of Venice, 4.1
What's On for Today and Why

Students will:

i)  students will role play a minor character reflecting on the trial


ii ) an outer circle of students will discuss their response to the inner circle through www.todaysmeet.com. This is a live chatroom that functions like a twitter feed.They will switch roles half way through.


This lesson will take 2 x 40 minute class periods.

What You Need

Internet access and computers

Socratic Seminar Role Play prep sheets

Student self-evaluation sheet

Preparation worksheet 1
Preparation worksheet 2
Self-evaluation handout
What To Do

Day 1-Explanantion, Guidelines, and Preparation worksheets

1. Set up the todaysmeet room on the day of the seminar. Model how to use the todaysmeet website the day before.


2. Distribute the seminar worksheets for all students to complete prior to the seminars so that students have evidence to support their character's beliefs.


3. Explain that Socratic seminars are collaborative dialogues that encourage student-guided open-ended discussion.


4. Divide the students equally into 2 groups-the inner and the outer circle.


4. Establish these rules/guidelines:

i) Only students in the inner circle can speak.


ii) Students in the outer circle actively listen to the discussion in order to contribute using www.todaysmeet.com as their assigned character. Students can access this from smartphones/laptops.


iii) Discussion should be limited to comments regarding the process of the trial, not the outcome.


iv) Students will switch circles half way through.


v) Encourage students to: stay in character, listen actively, search for evidence in the text, avoid debate, be respectful, address comments to the group, don't raise hands, and monitor speaking time.


5. Assign each student a minor character that has an investment or connection to the scene and its stakeholders.

Minor characters for this activity include: Jessica, Lorenzo, Duke, Salerio, Salarino, Solanio, Gratiano, Nerissa, Tubal, Lancelot Gobbo.(ie NOT Shylock, Portia, Antonio or Bassanio)

Giving students name cards will encourage them to speak in the first person.


6. Have students prepare and record responses on the worksheet.


Day 2: Socratic Seminars

1. Review the rules/guidelines established the previous day.


2. The inner circle will be facing each other and discussing the scene while the outer circle is chatting using todaysmeet. Members of the outer circle should respond to what the inner circle characters are saying. Avoid having the same characters in the same group.


3. Avoid teacher participation, but facilitate the discussion by asking questions to guide the seminar e.g Is the trial fair?


4. Allow 15 minutes for the first round.


5. Have students switch from the inner to the outer circle and visa versa.


6. Allow students to either pick up the discussion where it left off online or in class, or they may begin again using the questions generated on the worksheet.


7. For homework, have students evaluate their performance by completing the self evaluation worksheet.


How Did It Go?

Were students able to vocalize the opinions of a character's point of view?

Were students able to use Shakespeare's language to support their point of view?

Were students able to evaluate the relationships that Antonio and Shylock have with differnt characters?




Frankenstein-have students meet in the round after reading Chapters 1-5 about Victor's education and then after Chapters 10-16 about the monster's education. Guiding open-ended question: Who is responsible for making a man?

Macbeth-have students meet before the deed and after. Guided open-ended quesions could focus on ambition, power, gender, etc.


If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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