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Socrative Style of Questions

By General, Librarian's Role, Readaloud 3 Comments

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel —Socrates.

Much research has shown the benefits of reading, and despite the rich evidence, librarians are struggling to support reading habits. However, reading habits are not the sole responsibility of the librarian but the entire education system and the parents. When students see adults reading, thinking, and questioning, students will imitate and follow along. Reading breeds Reading.

One of the critical aspects of building a reading habit is developing curiosity and interest – this will then lead to the joy of reading.

How to read aloud?

I’ve noticed that when librarians or teachers read aloud picture books to children, the questions that they ask are simplistic and obvious, thus not challenging children to think and question. Children need to begin thinking and asking questions right from an early age. As librarians, when we read aloud, we can change the way we ask questions and pave the way for discussions.

For example, before we read aloud stories or after we have read a story we often ask –

  • Who is the author?
  • What is the title of the story?
  • What did you learn from the story?
  • What is the plot?
  • What is the setting or where is the story taking place?

Instead, we should learn the art of Socrative type of questioning or simply as we know it as Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) on the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

What is Socrative style or type of questioning?

Socrates was a Greek philosopher, and he said – Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. If we have to kindle the flame then it is essential to create a library space where there is a dialogue between the students and librarians. There is little or no space for lectures and therefore, no rote learning.

The teacher-librarian can be the one who initiates the questioning process – helps the students to think/ponder and brings out their values and beliefs in the process of discussion. Therefore, building a safe intellectual space for their independent thoughts and opinions.

Types of Socratic Questions?

There are several types of Socrative style of questions, here are three.

1. Clarification Questions

Questions in this Socrative style sound like this:

  • What do you mean by…?
  • The author has said it this way…. how would you explain it another way?
  • What is the main problem here – Can you explain it with another example?
  • Why is this important?
  • Is this easy or hard?
  • Why do you think so?

For example, when you read the book called No Smiles Today by Cheryl Rao illustrated by Saurab Pandey (Story Weaver – Pratham Books) (A story about a little child who is sad and her friends try to guess why she is sad and eventually finding her lost pet which makes her happy again.)
Socrative questions to ask when reading this book would be-

  • What is sadness?
  • Why do people feel sad?
  • The author talks about the child losing her pet and feeling sad – What are other reasons for sadness?
  • How do you overcome sadness?
  • Is it easy to overcome sadness? Why?

2. Questions about an Issue?

When one reads aloud a picture book with a global issue or problems in society, questions in Socrative-style may sound like this:

  • Why is this an important topic to discuss?
  • Is it easy or difficult to solve this issue? Why?
  • What assumptions can you make about the issue or subject?
  • Does this topic/problem lead to other problems and questions?

Use the above questions for this picture book when reading a book like Riddle of the Riddleys  (A story about thousands of olive ridley sea turtles on the beach of Orissa, who die each year due to the callousness of fishermen and people.) or any other book related to issues

Another example, if you are reading a picture book like The Why-Why Girl by Mahasweta Devi illustrated by Kanyika Kini (a story about Moyna who can’t go to school because she is a girl and because of her socio-economic conditions). When reading this book, you may ask questions like –

  • What is the issue in the story, and why is it essential to discuss this topic about gender discrimination?
  • Why is education opportunities not available for all?
  • What are the conditions that lead to inequality of education for all?
  • Is it easy to solve this problem? Why? Why not?
  • What might be different ways to address this issue?
  • What can we do at different levels to address this problem?

Similar questions can be asked of a novel. For example, Rippler by Cidney Swanson free on Bookbub is a fantasy novel dealing with a genetic disorder and inhuman experiments during the Nazi rule. Questions about scientific experiments, human body and genetic disorders can be explored, some questions may include:

  • What are the different conditions maintained in the laboratory for scientists in India when conducting experiments on animals?
  • How human or inhuman is testing on animals? Why? What do you think?
  • What other topics are related to genetic engineering?
  • If we assume genetic engineering is ok for plants, how can we justify genetic engineering in animals and humans? What are your reasons?
  • Can genetic engineering lead to other problems and issues? Can you explain it?
  • Questions like the above can open children’s minds and promote thinking, creating interest, curiosity, and reading?

3. Viewpoint Questions

Socrates style of questioning includes learning about different perspectives and opinions. When you learn about other perspectives it builds humility, kindness and empathy. Understanding viewpoints is not to argue and to prove a point, but understanding that others have a viewpoint and it must be equally respected. Each individual has the freedom to think and be responsible. Keeping this concept in mind, different viewpoint discussions can be held during the library class. Before discussions, the librarians must ensure that each individual’s point must be heard, is important and is respectfully conveyed.

Questions to consider are:

  • How would other people in other sections of the community feel/think about this? Why?
  • Why do you object to this consideration? What facts have you gathered to prove this viewpoint?
  • What is an alternative to bring further acceptance or rejection?

Another example to try is this book called, Father’s Inheritance by Elizabeth Laird (Storyweaver – Pratham Books- level 3)

Socrative style or approach of questioning helps students and adults become thinkers. We learn to conduct meaningful conversations. This disciplined approach teaches us to examine ideas and processes with logic and create a practical exploration of content leading to knowledge.

Students and adults may not have answers to any of the questions but it can lead to enquiry, curiosity, interest and reading to investigate their questions and sharing of new knowledge. Asking questions in the right spirit of curiosity and learning leads to success. If you google – Socrative-style of questions you will find lots of resources or check this out.

Warren Berger, a journalist in his book, The Book of Beautiful Questions, say, “You don’t learn unless you question.”

Virtual Class for Librarians

By Librarian's Role, Literacy, Virtual Learning One Comment

Tina Franklin libros y ebooks, Flickr

During the lockdown and virtual classes, librarians are looking out for ways to connect with students, teachers and the community. 

So, what can librarians do during this time of virtual learning with students?

Virtual Learning eBooks

During this time, librarians can capitalize on all the beautiful eBooks available for students. An opportunity to use the interactive eBooks where the books are either animated and read aloud rather than the pdf versions.  Many Pdf’s are floating around, but as ethical users of information, we must ensure that our students are using the eBooks ethically. Fair use guidelines may not always be used, especially when eBooks are available for purchase or shared by the vendors at discounted rates or free. 

Let’s capitalize on the eBooks that are offered for free by the companies.

Library Classes – Virtual

During the library online classes, we can capitalize this moment to create a love for reading and writing. Instead of using activities like – making your bookmark, asking questions like who is the character? what is the moral of the story? Let us use this opportunity to ask open-ended questions? Questions that help students think and help students develop the 21st-century skills of thinking analytically, critically or even having their own opinions and perspectives of stories that they read.

Examples of Virtual Learning eBooks

Vooks is offering a 1-month free trial. A kid-safe, ad-free streaming library of read-aloud animated storybooks. A curated list of eBooks that help builds vocabulary, love of reading, immersion, and fluency. 

For example, Title fo the book: The Easter Unicorn is a story about an Easter Bunny who is away on vacation, when a magical unicorn comes to the rescue, saving Easter Day!

Here is a list of activities that might go with the story:

Activity 1: Students can read the picture and retell the story and record the story using the Flipgrid app (video response)

Activity 2: Students can research and draw three magical creatures that do not exist.

Activity 3: Students can write a paragraph, describing a unicorn to someone who hasn’t seen one. 

Activity 4: Students can research and describe why rabbits are related to easter?

Activity 5: Students can explain why easter celebration is in April?

Virtual Learning Activity

RazPlus is offering a 2-month free trial. A guided reading program, with lesson plans and discussion cards. Try this out. For example: Title of the book: Gorillas by Keera Freed.

Gorillas are the largest primates in the world. Gorillas is an informative text that highlights how gorillas survive in the forests of Africa. The book can also be used to teach students how to identify main idea and details as well as to summarize to better understand the text. If you want to teach using the skills, get this trial and learn new teaching strategies and apply them to your students. (Available on Discussion Cards of the story)

  • How are gorillas similar and different than human beings (Skill of compare and contrast)
  • Why do you think humans teach gorillas sign language. How does this help man and animals? (Analysis)
  • Why might gorilla babies ride on their mother back (Make inferences & draw conclusions)
  • Why are gorillas endangered? (Cause and Effect)
  • How can people help gorillas? (Evaluate)

VooksA streaming service for kids, where storybooks come to life!

Finally, a better screen time option. Title of the book: Inventors, who changed the World.

Activities related to the story:

  • What qualities or characteristics should a person have to become an inventor? What are some traits you may have?
  • Select on the inventions you learned about and explain how it has impacted the world.
  • Research on the internet and find out three inventions in the 21st century that have positively impacted the world and explain.
  • What would happen if inventors did not share their failed research ideas and successful ideas with the world? 
  • Why is it important to share ideas with others? How is it beneficial to the community?
  • What is the author’s purpose in writing the story? How do you know it?

StoryWeaver is another free eBook resources that students can use to inquire, think critically and use the eBooks to create stories.

Title of the book: More or Less? Need to Guess! ,Written by Gayathri Tirthapura, Illustrated by Sahitya Rani – So many mithai boxes to count, so little time! Can Ranjita and Vikram do it? Yes, using a cool math trick called ‘Approximately More-or-Less’! Read this fun wedding story to learn the trick yourself. 

Activity 1: What was the problem in the story and how was it solved?

Activity 2: Describe a wedding that you last attended? 

Activity 3: What is the author’s purpose for writing the story? Is it to inform? Entertain or Persuade? How do you know that? Explain

Activity 4: Create a story that will help solve a math problem.

Activity 5: What genre is this story? Explain.

GetEpic:  An online eBook Platform: Title of the Book: The Trojan Horse: The Fall of Troy.

Ancient Greece’s best warriors battled their enemies, the Trojans, in a desperate attempt to win back King 

  • What genre is this story?
  • How is a myth different from historical fiction?
  • Describe the external and internal characteristics of the main character?
  • Who are the supporting characters and how do they bring out the best qualities of the main character?
  • Rewrite the Greek Myth using Indian setting and characters
  • What are some of the Indian myths you have heard? How is it different and similar to the Indian myths

For more eBook Resources – check out the Liferarian Padlet

What should a read aloud look like?

By General No Comments

Have You Ever Thanked a Tree by Shyamala Shanmugasundaram

India is a country of a million tales, grandmother tales, old wives tales, thousands of animal tales and mythology, legends, and many more stories and in many dialects. Stories always absorb every human being. In fact, in a rblog post by Hemang Mehta, he says, what we share on social media is usually stories or sayings that touch our hearts. What touches our hearts, helps us remember and learn.

Reading aloud stories open the windows of our hearts and minds in the land of mystery and magic and possibility of ideas and dreams. Through read-aloud sessions, children discover passions and ways to express themselves. And, through stories, we can teach grammar, life lessons, pique interest in sciences, math, arts, technology, and biography. Why shouldn’t we include this in our regular life with our children and teach them through stories?

Reading aloud means becoming a storyteller, imbibing the content, using your voice and heart to tell the story. It opens the window into the world of magic, and enormous possibilities. You can read both fiction and nonfiction, magazines and even news articles.

Reading aloud must be meaningful and intentional. Being intentional creates a culture of listening and helps listeners look deeper into the elements of writing in good pieces of literature. Interactive read aloud sessions have 6 strands according to  Linda Hoyt. Each of these elements can be taught through a picture book.

  1. Comprehension: This strand utilizes prior knowledge and asks questions to support summarizations and allow students to distinguish real from make beliefs. Terms such as main ideas, causes and effect, analyse and evaluate that commonly appear in standards of comprehension can be taught
  2. Story Elements:  This strand includes identifying events in a plot sequence, author’s purpose, tracking character development, statement of theme and examining structural elements such as climax, setting, problem/solution and role of the narrator (we must understand each of these terms before we teach them to our students)
  3. Vocabulary/Literary Language:  Through this strand, we can help students observe the power of precise vocabulary, appreciate rhythm, rhyme onomatopoeia, alliteration and literary language and to understand the meanings of unfamiliar words through contextual cues, transition words and multiple meanings in the texts (Again, it’s important for us to learn about these terms that build literary language)
  4. Literary elements and devices: Literary elements such as point of view, foreshadowing, repetition and exaggeration, getting at the heart of the authors’ studies of text to understand author’s vision. Simile, metaphors and personification are some of the literary devices. (These definitions can be googled and applied when the adult holds the picture book in their hand)
  5. Genre: Fiction, nonfiction fairy tale, drama, science fiction and so on – each has their particular structure. Exploring this with the students helps students learn what to expect from each genre (Identifying and differentiating these genres help us have deeper conversation with our students)

Engaging students with reading aloud times naturally lends itself to students to write while exploring different ideas. organization of text, voice, convention and so on. They begin to mirror and appreciate different writers’ styles.