AP Literature class participates in Socratic seminars


Munachi Johnson

Seniors Lily Sawyer and Rahber Syeda discuss the novel “The Things They Carried” during a Socratic seminar in Josh Surface’s period 5 AP Literature class on Friday.

Finn Nowacki and Jack Forrest

On Sept. 9 and 13, English teacher Josh Surface’s AP Literature classes participated in a Socratic seminar, a discussion-based assessment focusing on “The Things They Carried,” a novel they read this past month. Students were tasked with discussing the novel’s themes, characters and plot.

“I guess I learned that there are ways to interpret the same thing,” senior Joe Simpson said. “I suppose that people have different viewpoints on [the book]. I think I improved on speaking a lot. The fact you had a minimum amount of times you had to speak helped [me] to talk more often.”

Prior to the seminar, students read three literary critiques with different perspectives on the novel in order to consider multiple interpretations of the book.

“We read a few essays from various different people that analyzed the book and looked at it from various different lenses. One of them was looking at it from a feminist lense, another was looking more broadly at how the narrator was portrayed in the book,” senior Walker Milhoff said. 

If students did not wish to participate in the oral discussion, they could opt for an alternative online assignment. 

“We had had these three articles that we had to read and annotate, and in the discussion board I wrote around 570 words worth of analysis and my reaction to the articles,” senior Sidd Chhettry said. “I definitely learned a lot more interesting views, I didn’t agree with all of them, and it did help me understand the text a lot better.”

These activities were meant to prepare students for reading literature and literary critiques on the AP exam and beyond.

“I learned a lot that was specific to the book, like some things about how the themes were developed, how the characters were developed, how the author creates the story, the prose and the character development and all of that,” Millhoff said. “I also learned how to use literary analysis that’s already been made and use that to continue looking into a book and its story and its themes.”

Munachi Johnson contributed to this article