I was over-the-moon excited when @_KELewis proposed a play adaptation of Frank Stockton’s short story “The Lady, or the Tiger?” for the April issue of Scope. My first thought? It’s time for a Socratic seminar! The story lends itself perfectly to this discussion strategy because of its ambiguous ending and its exploration of powerful ideas—love and jealousy, choices and consequences, justice and injustice.
Below, I’ve rounded up my favorite thought-provoking questions from all of our activities for “The Choice” and put them into a Socratic seminar format. I hope this strategy helps your students gain a deeper understanding of the text and find value in the shared exploration of questions.
Some quick tips
Read the play aloud as a class the day before the seminar. (You may want to preview challenging vocabulary words that are highlighted in bold in the play using this activity.) Then have students reread the play independently as a “Do-Now” upon entering the classroom the day of the seminar. Be sure they are equipped with a pencil, highlighter, sticky notes—anything they might need for annotating the text throughout the class period.
Have your classroom arranged so that students can look at each other directly. (On the day prior to a seminar, instead of having my last period class put their chairs up, I would have them help me move the desks and chairs into a circle.) Make sure your class discussion norms and discussion stem anchor charts are visible for easy student reference.
Below you’ll find a list of various questions types to help you facilitate a rich discussion: A Key Question meant to be answered first in a round-robin fashion; Level 1 Questions (literal questions used to ensure comprehension), Level 2 Questions (questions that require students to analyze text and make inferences), and Level 3 questions (evaluative questions that rely on student experiences and opinions rather than the text itself). Of course, these questions are meant to be discussed without raising of hands and in any order. Let students lead the dialogue; you can pick and choose moments to pose the questions that you think will help them dig deeper, clarify their thinking, and support their conclusions. Finally, at the end of this post you’ll find some options for culminating tasks—various writing activities to help students reflect upon the day’s reading, thinking, speaking, and listening.