Scaffolding Socratic discussions for EAL/D learners

Some EAL/D students might need structured opportunities to practise agreeing, disagreeing and asserting their own opinions. This ‘in practice example’ scaffolds EAL/D students to participate in open-ended discussions. 

Learning Intention

We are learning to justify our opinions and listen to the opinions of others and come to a consensus.

Success criteria

I can give my opinions and listen to my friends so we can come to a consensus.


  1. The teacher sets the learning intention and success criteria for the task and ensures that students understand the expectation of this task, in particular, to participate in the discussion to reach a consensus.
  2. Students are given either a situation or a question. For example, they could be asked to list five qualities that make a good teacher, or ten things you need in order to have a good birthday party.
  3. Students initially write down their list of ideas individually. They might record their justifications in English or their home languages.
  4. Then the students join with a partner to discuss their options and reach an agreement on which options to include on their combined list. EAL/D students are required to argue and discuss and use expressions such as, 'I believe', 'in my opinion' and 'yes, but'.
  5. After that the pair of students joins another pair and the whole group of four negotiates consensus.
  6. At the end, each group of four presents their final list and the rationale for their decisions to the whole class. At any point where there is someone within their group who cannot understand what is being said, the members of the group are expected to explain and clarify using English (and home languages where appropriate).

An example of a scenario could include:

Moving to Mars

Students are part of a group that is leaving Earth to move to Mars. They are only allowed to bring ten items to the Mars space station. Students have to choose from a list of items. Students justify the ten items they choose and come to a consensus. This discussion could occur at the end of a unit of work about adaptation and survival.

For more information on Socratic discussions, see Socratic discussions

Links to the Victorian Curriculum - English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Pathway B

Speaking and listening

Level BL

  • Demonstrate listening behaviour, attending to tone and intonation (VCEALC162)
  • Take turns to speak or listen during class interactions (VCEALA169)

Level B1

  • Demonstrate active listening skills, attending to tone, intonation and body language (VCEALC240)
  • Speak or listen appropriately during class interactions (VCEALA248)

Level B2

  • Demonstrate independence in extended conversations (VCEALC321)
  • Participate appropriately in social and learning situations (VCEALA329)

 Level B3

  • Contribute information, express ideas and give reasons for opinions in group tasks or classroom discussions (VCEALC401)
  • Initiate and manage interaction appropriately in social and learning situations (VCEALA409)

Links to Victorian curriculum 

Critical and Creative Thinking: Reasoning

Level 3 and 4: Investigate why and when the consequences of a point of view should be considered (VCCCTR015)

Level 3 and 4: Identify and use ‘If, then…’ and ‘what if…’ reasoning (VCCCTR016)

Level 5 and 6: Consider the importance of giving reasons and evidence and how the strength of these can be evaluated (VCCCTR025)

Level 5 and 6: Explore what a criterion is, different kinds of criteria, and how to select appropriate criteria for the purposes of filtering information and ideas (VCCCTR028)

Science: Biological sciences

Level 3 and 4: Different living things have different life cycles and depend on each other and the environment to survive (VCSSU058)

Level 5 and 6: The growth and survival of living things are affected by the physical conditions of their environment (VCSSU075)