Socratic Seminar: The Great Gatsby

Only TWO more days until Summer Vacation! On Tuesday (1st) and Wednesday (4th) of this week, we will conduct our Socratic Seminar on The Great Gatsby! Please see the guidelines and questions below to prepare for the Seminar.


A Socratic Seminar (named after Socrates) is a deep discourse led by questioning. You will engage in one as your final exam over F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. 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 The Great Gatsby 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! The teacher will only intervene when absolutely necessary.

Seminar Preparation:

Since you’ve done this before, for the purposes of this Socratic Seminar, you will construct your own questions. 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. Chapter 4). Please refer to the “Socratic Seminar Question Stems” handout you received in class today to ensure your questions are higher-order thinking discussion questions, rather than ones that test memory or are close-ended (“yes/no questions”).

Everyone must submit three questions on the Google Form link below. This is due by the morning before the Seminar. On the morning of your final exam, Ms. Antonacci will print your questions for you. All you will need on these days is something to write with. (Please remember that bookbags are NOT allowed on campus for the rest of the week!)

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

Socratic Seminar: The Crucible

On Thursday, we will conduct our Socratic Seminar on The Crucible! Please see the guidelines and questions below to prepare for the Seminar.


A Socratic Seminar (named after Socrates) is a deep discourse led by questioning. You will engage in one as an assessment over Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. 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 The Crucible 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 nor Ms. Shaw. Discourse is for you, the students. You are teaching each other! The teacher(s) will only intervene when absolutely necessary.

Seminar Preparation:

You may use all of the analysis questions you have answered for each act, but you must also answer two of the essential questions below (your choice). 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).

Everyone must answer #10: Who has the right to determine morality? Is morality something entirely socially constructed?

Choose two from the list below to construct a response to — ensure your response points to direct text evidence!

  1. How do various characters manipulate language to achieve their purposes? What are these purposes? Think of rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos), but be specific about these appeals. For example, instead of stating, “The character uses ethos to…” write something more specific: “Edwards appeals to his audience’s desire for salvation to…” (This is a much more specific phrasing of “pathos.”)
  2. How do the events in the story connect to Miller’s larger criticism of and allegory on McCarthyism? Point to evidence from the text to support your view.
  3. How do gender, race, socioeconomic status and title factor into the actions and events of the play?
  4. A crucible is defined as “a vessel or melting pot” or “a test of the most decisive kind.” How are these definitions appropriate to this story and its events?
  5. Many characters rely on or are victim to logical fallacies (errors in logic). Examine some of the logical fallacies present. What do they assume? What could Miller’s purpose be in incorporating these errors in logic in his characters? Think about the possible purposes within the text and within Miller’s society.
  6. In an article from Psychology Today, Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D., describes the psychological concept of confirmation bias: “When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true. Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively. We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.” Review our readings of The Crucible. How does the concept of confirmation bias surface in this text? How does it motivate characters and shape their worldviews?
  7. What are the benefits and drawbacks of pride? What different types of pride are there?
  8. How does one’s reputation influence one’s actions and decision-making?
  9. How does groupthink and scapegoating still pervade our society? Point to examples in the text, and then connect these events to modern day examples or other examples in history.
  10. Who has the right to determine morality? Is morality something entirely socially constructed?

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