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April 20, 2015

With "Socratic Seminar," high school English students debate a very modern question 

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"It's important to bring up an article we read about how Facebook makes us unhappy."

"It's their choice to play the games, the games are not making them addictive."

"We are opposing one of your sub claims- can you speak to that?"

Aided by weeks of research, teams of AP English 11 Honors students spent the morning of Thursday, April 16, debating the question, "Is Technology Isolating?"

The debates - four were going on at once in different areas around the library - were conducted as "Socratic Seminars," a highly structured format in which students articulate carefully crafted and well-researched arguments and members of each team have specific roles related to research and format. Their teachers, Amber DeSimony and Kristin Richard, referred to the 1 hour, 40 minute activity as a "debate field trip," an indication of the intensity of the preparation and the activity.

In the weeks leading up to the seminars, students created working bibliographies in MLA format, conducted close reading of materials to determine authors' claims and perspectives, formulated evidence based claims and sub-claims, and organized evidence to support their claim. Each class was separated into pro and con sides for the debate.

In addition to the debaters, the teams included transition trackers, "big board" people, and evidence trackers/research assistants, who checked claims and provided supporting information or critiques to teammates in real-time. Student general evaluators worked with adult general evaluators to monitor adherence to norms and the format.

The morning included a brief opportunity for prep, a 10-minute "halftime" in between 50 minutes of live debate, followed by a chance to debrief. "Each class has not only learned to work collaboratively, but has grown into a community of learners as a result of this activity," their teachers said.

Pictures from April 16 AP English 11 Honors Socratic Seminar

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