Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes Harcourt: New York 2004

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1 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes Harcourt: New York 2004 Questioning Strategy: Socratic Seminar Purpose of the Strategy This book is dense and complicated, and the end of the novel is extremely ambiguous. Charlie ends up in the same place mentally as he was before the experiment, but has now decided to institutionalize himself because he does not want people pitying him. However, he states that he is grateful for his experience and the things he has learned. This strategy allows the students to explore the key issues in Flowers for Algernon by preparing a short paper about the ending of the novel and then discussing these issues in class. The preparation and structure of this strategy will allow the students to ask critical questions about the text that they may not otherwise recognize. Context This strategy should be used at the end of the novel after the students have seen the overall outcome of Charlie s procedure. Directions Note: Because of the nature of this activity, it should only be done if classroom management is in control. Explain to the students that they must respect each others ideas and listen to others opinions. This is not an argumentative activity. 1-2 Classes Prior to the Seminar: 1. Ask the students to recall as a class what happened the Charlie at the end of the novel. List the different responses on the board. (Should include: regression in intelligence, did not reconcile with parents, lost friends at bakery, lost friends at adult college, decided to commit himself to the Warren home, understands himself better, grateful for his experiences, and understands people and emotions better.) 2. Hand out the worksheet on Socratic Seminars and critical questions (found below). Explain that each student will be writing a short paper on a question they have about the novel. 3. Explain the seminar process so that students understand the purpose of their papers and what to expect. On the Day of the Seminar: 1. On the day of the seminar arrange the desks into a circle. Have the students come prepared with their typed essay, blank paper, pen, their copies of Flower for Algernon, a tracking guide and a large, clear nametag that faces the group. 2. Check each student s essay for completion. Those not prepared are not allowed to participate. You may want to provide an alternate assignment (such as a written test) for those who are not prepared or are not comfortable participating. 3. Teach the students how to use the tracking guide (found below) and review the instructions for the seminar.

2 4. Allow one student to begin the seminar with their question. Seminar Execution: 4. The first question is presented. 5. When students have contributions to make, they jump in. It may be necessary for the teacher to step in to maintain order, or to require students to call on each other, but the teacher should not moderate. Students should address each other. 6. The conversation should flow naturally from one issue to another. If conversation lags or becomes boring another question should be presented for the students to discuss. 7. While students are talking, the teacher should make notes about student contributions. 8. End the seminar about 15 minutes before class ends. 9. Students briefly answer one instructor-prepared wrap-up question. They also answer the last two questions: What did you notice about this seminar? What did you notice about your own participation in the seminar? 10. Students fill out the self-assessment grading rubric (found below). 11. Collect all typed essays, the three wrap-up questions, and the tracking guides and self-assessment rubrics. Assessment In addition to having the students turn in their papers, keep track of the comments they make in class and evaluate them based on: analysis/thoughtfulness, reference to the text, text to self/world/text connections and references to other s comments.

3 Name Period Date Flowers for Algernon Socratic Seminar For this activity we will be asking and answering critical questions about Flowers for Algernon. There are two types of questions that will help you with the most critical type of inquiry. Read the following descriptions. You will need to know the difference between the two kinds of questions. Examining Questions Examining questions ask about the parts of the text that seem insignificant or don t really seem to make sense. They re the parts where you, as the reader, ask, What? Why does the author keep talking about three blind mice? You need to figure out what the author means. Examining questions try to figure out the answer. There are not necessarily right or wrong answers. If you can textually support your answer, it is valid and right. How to Write and Answer Examining Questions Identify parts of the text that seem insignificant or don t seem to make sense Write the questions you naturally ask as you read. Look for anything in the text that could provide insight. Develop a hypothesis that is supported by the text. In presenting your answer, discuss what you think and why you think that. What in the text led to your conclusion? Words to Use How is related to? Why do you think...? What is the relationship between...? Why is the focus of...? Why did the character...? Inquiry Questions Inquiry questions attempt to discover the purpose of the text according to yourself and the author (these may be different). Inquiry questions try to connect images and symbolism to the purpose of the reading. Again, there are no right or wrong answers. If you can support your answer, it is right. How to Write and Answer Inquiry Questions Words to Use

4 Look at images, symbols, and re-occuring issues. Look at things like the title, beginning and end. Write questions that tie your discoveries to the purpose of the text. Look for anything in the text that could provide insight. Develop a hypothesis that is supported by the text. In presenting your answer, discuss what you think and why you think that. What in the text led to your conclusion? What is your opinion of...? Why did they...? How could you explain...? Why was it better that...? How would you compare the ideas/people...?

5 Name Period Date Flowers for Algernon Socratic Seminar Tracking Grid You have the opportunity to make four comments during this seminar. Please track the comments you make, ensuring that for each comment you include part or all of the components of critical thinking. Comment Analysis Text Connection Reference Analysis: Analyze the text and discuss the original conclusions you came to. Mention ideas you come up with relating to the themes or issues in the text, or add original thoughts to someone else s issues or ideas. Text: Reference specific examples from the text that either support or disprove the claim being discussed. Refer the class to the specific page or line you are discussing. Connections: Apply the concept or issue being discussed to something in the world, another text, or your personal experience. Reference: Evaluate what other says and either challenge or build off of them. Show that you are listening to your peers. ( I agree with Billy doesn t count.) Name Period Date Socratic Seminar Self-Assessment Grading Rubric I showed a clear and deep understanding of I acknowledged and built off others comments novel themes. I worked well with many parts of without being domineering. the novel I related my comments and questions back to the novel I was present at the seminar meeting and was listening, contributing and not having side conversations

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