Socratic Seminar and HOT (Higher-Order Thinking) Questions

A Socratic Seminar (named after Socrates) is a deep discourse led by questioning. You will engage in one as an assessment over Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. You will prepare your thoughts on several different questions, and the Seminar will take up the entire period.

Why Do Socratic Seminars?

  • To think out loud and share our valid voices
  • To share ideas
  • To investigate what we may not get to talk about in a traditional assessment
  • To reflect on the way things are or the way they could be
  • To learn from each other
  • To engage in academic discourse
  • To use vocabulary more precisely
  • To discover the power of many minds at work
  • To change our minds

Guidelines and Norms for the Socratic Seminar:

  • Listen carefully! This is crucial. Much of your grade is based on your ability to listen and respond to what was just said.
  • Be respectful! Sit up straight in your seat. Use names when addressing another student. Raise your hand to speak. If you notice someone is not participating, you may call on them to get them active in the seminar. Do this by calling the student by name and stating your opinion first so the student has something about which to react. Everyone will have a nameplate.
  • Speak loudly and clearly.
  • Take turns speaking. You cannot call on the same person who called on you. If you disagree with a something someone said, do so in a thoughtful, appropriate manner. Ask questions without attacking, and disagree with ideas, not people. Ask people to explain what they mean. There are no right or wrong answers.
    • Don’t worry if the conversation takes a different direction. When a discussion of a particular question seems to have ended and no one has anything to say, any student may ask, “Are we done?” and/or “Shall we move on to another question?”
  • Refer to your copy of A Raisin in the Sun when necessary. A seminar is not a test of memory. You are not learning a subject; you are aiming at understanding ideas and issues.
  • Don’t look at Ms. Antonacci. Discourse is for you, the students. You are teaching each other! Ms. A. will only intervene when absolutely necessary.

Seminar Preparation:

Using the essential questions below, prepare responses to four of them on note cards. You will likely need several note cards. Make a point on the front of the note card and put your proof on the back. All points must be backed up with proof in the forms of text, research, packet information, etc. Label your proof so that you can direct the other seminar members where to find it (i.e. Act II, scene 1).

Seminar Essential Questions:

  1. What is Hansberry’s ultimate message regarding the dreams of African-Americans? To what degree does this message resonate today?
  2. To what extent do you think Hansberry is critiquing traditional gender roles in the play?
  3. Why do you think Lena changes her mind and gives Walter the responsibility of handling the money? Regardless of Walter’s subsequent actions, was this a smart decision?
  4. Compare the personalities of Walter, George Murchison, and Asagai; how they different? Are they at all similar? How do they represent different archetypes of the “black man”?
  5. The play takes its names from a well-known Langston Hughes poem, “Harlem,” which is printed at the beginning of the play. Explain the connection between these two works of literature.
  6. What external factors hindered, or may have hindered, the Youngers’ achievement of their respective dreams? How do faith and family help the Youngers to move beyond those external obstacles?
  7. How do the different characters in A Raisin in the Sun think about identity? How do the different characters think about heritage as an aspect of identity?
  8. Come up with TWO of YOUR OWN QUESTIONS to use during the seminar. It must be open-ended and text-dependent; i.e., it can be answered in many ways and can be backed up with text. Please refer to the handout provided in class for question stems.

****Please note that in order to participate in the Socratic Seminar, you must have your questions and responses completed BEFORE the Seminar. Failure to do so will result in a grade penalty.

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