Socratic Scramble Vocabulary Game

by | Oct 19, 2018

The Socratic Scramble requires students to juggle multiple literacy and thinking skills simultaneously. This is a dynamic, challenging and engaging strategy that models how to survive and thrive in a high-level, two-way conversation that is part of classroom discourse. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, complex and usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems. Socratic questions are powerful ways to delve deeper into a subject as they are designed to elicit specific information or to gain clarification about the subject being discussed. Teachers prepare four slides to show Socratic-like questions for this exercise, but keep them hidden from view. After reading a quote in class, watching a video or listening to a lecture, the students stand and find their partner. To start the Socratic Scramble, have AB partners sit or stand shoulder to shoulder, with Partner A facing the large media screen in the front of the room and Partner B facing away from the screen. This is the same seating configuration as the AB Pyramid Game. (Download sample chapter below to view game). The teacher has Partner B, who has their back to the screen, begin talking about the quote read in class, the video that was viewed or specific aspects of the lecture they have both just heard. After Partner B has talked for 30–45 seconds, the teacher puts a series of four Socratic questions on the board. Partner A then asks any of the Socratic Questions that they think will help reach the objective. Partner A decides which questions should be asked and in what order. They also have to decide if they should ask every question, or if only one or two questions are enough to for them to dig deeper into what Partner B is saying. The key is that the speaker doesn’t see what possible questions they may be asked, and that the questioner listens to each response to determine which will be the next best question to pose.

Sample Socratic Questions

Conceptual Clarification Questions

  • What exactly does this mean?
  • How does this relate to what we have been talking about?
  • What do we already know about this?
  • Can you give me an example?

Probing Assumptions

  • What else could we assume?
  • You seem to be assuming . . .
  • How did you choose those assumptions?
  • What would happen if . . . ?

Probing Rationale, Reasons, and Evidence

  • How do you know this?
  • Can you give me an example of that?
  • How can I be sure of what you are saying?
  • What evidence is there to support what you are saying?

Questioning Viewpoints and Perspectives

  • What alternative ways of looking at this are there?
  • What is the difference between . . . and . . . ?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of . . . ?
  • How are . . . and . . . similar?

Probe Implications and Consequences

  • Then what would happen?
  • What are the implications of . . . ?
  • How does . . . affect . . . ?
  • Why is . . . important?

Questions About the Question

  • What was the point of asking that question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • Am I making sense? Why or why not?
  • What else might I ask?

Figure 3.6 Sample Socratic questions – Serve and Volley relays p. 67 see sample chapter below.

Robin Fogarty Robin is known as the teachers’ teacher. She brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to all endeavours, and is often complimented on her lively sense of humour. Read more articles by Robin Fogarty

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