Lesson Plan

Socratic Seminars & Fishbowl Discussions

Use Augmented Reality & Backchanneling for Student-Led Discussions
Cathie G.
Classroom teacher
Dorseyville Middle School
Pittsburgh, PA
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My Grades 6
My Subjects English Language Arts
EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

  • Respond verbally to open-ended questions
  • Exhibit active listening skills
  • Support claims and address counterclaims 
  • Draw evidence from texts to support analysis, reflection, and research
English Language Arts
Grades 6 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Discussion Preparation

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Assign students a discussion piece.  The item could be a rich text, picture, math problem, etc.    Students should photograph the piece and add the item into their camera roll.  Instruct students to open the ThingLink App and add their discussion piece from their camera roll. Encourage students to make overlays of notes using the tabs and bullets in the ThinkLing App.  ThingLink will allow students to create augmented reality layers on the discussion piece.  Students can take notes, add additional photo links, or link specific items to other URL's. The overlays should address main points and concepts of the article.  

The first step of a Socratic seminar is to prepare for the discussion without knowing the focus question. Use the analogy of being a doctor in the Emergency Room of a hospital.    Although the doctor is trained and prepared, they are not sure of what their day holds.  Students shoul be prepared for the discussion and be able to discuss intellectually connecting the piece to the focus question.  

The piece should be homework for the evening.

ThingLink for Educators

ThingLink Tutorials 

2 Socratic Seminar

When students arrive in class, the teacher should divide the class into two groups.  One group will be a discussion group (inner circle), and the other group will be the outer circle.  Instruct students in the inner circle to refresh themselves with their ThingLink discussion item.  Instruct the outer circle students to go to a preestablished link to TodaysMeet that will allow them to backchannel.  The backchannel allows observers to have a voice in  the discussion. Outer circle participants should be typing into the backchannel.

Students can comment on the following:

  • Is the question being answered?
  • Are the participants missing any points?
  • They may also want to intervene a point they discovered in their preparation for the discussion?

Have students in the inner circle should place up a name card and have their device with their ThingLink open with the discussion item ready.   Once the teacher states the focus question. Students in the inner circle should begin the discussion.  Students should use the names of their fellow students and comment to each other without interrupting.  The discussion should be student centered, and the teacher should not be part of the discussion.  

The teacher should stop the discussion about 10 minutes before the class ends.  All students in the inner circle should complete debrief that is the last part of the discussion.  Students should comment on one of the following:

  • How they participated in the discussion.
  • A point they wanted to make but were unable.
  • Their thoughts on the discussion in general.

The inner circle participants should read the backchannel for homework.  Students should then open a Google document and write a one paragraph summary of the backchannel comments.

The outer circle participants should write a one paragraph summary on a Google document on how they would have answered the focus question


3 Follow-UpActivity

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When students arrive at class the next day, the teacher should pair an inner and outer circle participant together.  The students should Think-Pair-Share their written paragraphs from the Socratic Seminar.   Students will write an individual 30 second script of their discussion and paragraph.    

Each student will open the Tellagami Application.

First students will need to type their script in the Text-To-Speech or  choose  to record their voice for their animated character.

Students will then design an animated character an choose a background.

Students can also use customized doodles for their background.

Students will save their Tellagami and add it to their camera roll.

Students will then share their animated Tellagami with the teacher via email.