Kwanzaa Socratic Seminar

Kathryn Gregory
Multiple Subject Teacher

Students will discuss the cultural roots of Kwanzaa and analyze why the holiday has been brought to the United States.

Grade Level: 5 - 7th

Subject: Social Studies

Length of Time: 30 - 40 Minutes Each

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Common Core Alignment

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.2 - Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Objectives & Outcomes

Students will analyze the text that explains the roots of Kwanzaa. Students will form an opinion about the holiday.

Materials Needed

Reading worksheets, discussion worksheets. It is necessary that your classroom is a comfortable place in which students can trust and respect each other during this lesson.


Opening to Lesson

  • Teacher asks students how they celebrate the holidays and specificly, how they share the time with family.
  • Do they talk about family and unity during this time?
  • Do they discuss values?

Body of Lesson


  • Pass out the reading worksheet and have students read 1 time to themselves, talking to the text as they read.
  • Talk to the text: Students will highlight or underline any important facts in the reading. Students will circle words or concepts in which they need further clarification.
  • Have students write at least 2 questions on the margin that they have about the text.
  • Pair students with a partner and have them re-read the text aloud together.
  • Have students answer each other questions and clarify any unknown words using a dictionary or through discussion.
  • As a pair, have students come up with at least 4 more questions that can be brought to the Socratic seminar for the next day.


  • Socratic Seminar
  • This type of lesson is done frequently in AVID classrooms around the world.
  • The main focus is to advocate respectful discussion that is more representative of real world conversations vs. typical classroom teacher-run models.
  • The leader should try to only ask questions without providing answers, and to speak as little as possible to allow the class to discuss freely.
  • For more information on running a Socratic seminar, visit

More on Socratic Seminar Rules:

  • Set up the classroom so that students are facing each other.
  • Write these rules on the board:
  • Address each other by name.
  • Speak at least 2 times.
  • Ask at least 1 question.
  • Do not interrupt.
  • You do not need to raise your hand, but be respectful of other students at all time.
  • Do not dominate the conversation.

Suggestions for a smooth discussion:

  • Act as the leader or choose a leader to use these questions.
    1. What are the origins of Kwanzaa?
    2. What do you think that Kwanzaa can offer culturally that winter holidays are missing?
    3. Do you feel that Kwanzaa should be aimed toward all cultural and ethnic groups or should it be focused on African-Americans?
  • Use respectful language at all time, be aware of less obvious discriminatory words such as “those people.”
  • Paraphrase the previous speaker’s comment or question before responding.
  • You may choose to prepare more questions, but hopefully the students will have enough questions prepared to continue the conversation.


  • As homework, or as an exit card to be finished before leaving the room, have students write a brief summary that starts with this prompt: After today's Socratic Seminar, I feel that Kwanzaa is a ________________________.

Read our guide on Teaching Holidays in the Classroom.

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Assessment & Evaluation

Students will complete a worksheet.

Modification & Differentiation

You may choose to offer a 2nd reading about Kwanzaa for comparison. The assignment would be the same, but students would complete 2 worksheets and prepare questions based on both texts before the Socratic Seminar.

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