Chaneling Socrates: Dialogic Classroom for Language Acquisition


French Immersion, School-level initiative, Metro Vancouver Region, 2017-2018


As a result of a teacher inquiry to enhance both student engagement and oral participation for all students in her classroom, several successful strategies were implemented in her classroom. Using the framework of Robin Alexander's, Towards Dialogic Teaching: rethinking classroom talk (2017) and Roy Lister's, Vers une approche intégrée en immersion (2016), the teacher assessed her current language teaching practices through the lens of maximizing student's language acquisition through increased opportunity for student-led discourse. Several initiatives were put in place including student-led round table discussions and inquiries, Carousel text analysis, Outloud reflections and Socratic Conversations. These lessons were all planned to top load essential concepts and associated vocabulary so that students were able to dialogue with understanding and fluidity. One of the most successful is the Socratic Conversation (used in a Sciences Humaines class) where students are grouped in triads and tasked with researching, explaining a particular world problem to their peers. In this case, students investigated various challenges facing developing countries including issues for women, for children, for the environment and for responding to essential needs. Students studied and shared findings on their selected issues in focus teams, thereby increasing their individual knowledge base and vocabulary. They then returned to their initial triad group to report on their findings during a Socratic Conversation. Students were assessed through observation of their engagement in the discussion as well as through the notes they provided on their research.


The concept of a Socratic Conversation responds to the Big Ideas in the New Curriculum where students get hands-on experiences in collaboration, critical thinking and communication. In addition to responding to a significant number of the curricular competencies contained in the Sciences Humaines 11 curriculum, this project efectively addresses many outcomes for Français Langue where linguistic learning objectives include oral mastery, expanding vocabulary, the ability to take part in both practiced and spontaneous dialogues and the capacity to express ever increasing complex thoughts in the target language. Additionally, this type of forum places the responsibility for learning and teaching on the student who takes on both actions as a forum member. Each participant has a role throughout the process and everyone interacts and talks. Its success is in providing the stage where students can teach, learn, question and discuss together. Its benefits are that no student is left out. The assessment is tricky as all the goups are interacting at the same time. However, the teacher requested the help of a colleague to observe and document the triads. Video and photographic evidence was collected as well as students' research notes. 


  • Name: Anne Louise Doucet
  • Contact email:
  • School district: #64 Gulf Islands