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Lora Fanning

What If A Socratic Discussion Goes Quiet?

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Just finished watching Video 2 of Teaching the Odyssey. In the interview with Dr. Brann, she tells Dr. Perrin that "you can't make people think" and sometimes students can have the most interesting piece in front of them, but they don't seem to see the brilliance. And the discussion goes nowhere and you go home disappointed and think you're a terrible teacher. 

My question is this: What do you do in this case? Is the role of the tutor to take over and begin to talk? To look for another question, another way to rephrase? Or to let the class sit in the awkward for a bit? Maybe all of the above?

I'd love some suggestions.



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I noticed when going through it for a teacher development course being asked to come up with a chapter title and section titles, forced me to grapple with whether I actually understood or got anything out of what I had read. Sometimes the story is so rich or so complicated, it is hard to get a hook into it. But when I had to think of a title for a section or a chapter I discovered I DID get something out of it. Sometimes I had to skim the section or my notes again, but 90% of the time I could do it. 

I know I'm an adult, but I don't feel any better prepared than most high schoolers! Of course I have life experience on my side, I admit. But if they could at least try to summarize a section, it may jog a theme, or a question or a thought. 


Prompts about whatever themes you are exploring could be good: Was there an event, a dialogue, or a character that embodied our theme of homecoming, or fidelity, or where there any instances, dialogue, or characters who embodied the opposite of homecoming, fidelity etc...


Sometimes asking them to orally re-narrate can jog their memory. Starting class with reading out loud an important section can be a good primer too, or having a beautiful piece of art depicting some aspect of the epic will job their thoughts. 

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