Now I'm firmly convinced that Socratic seminars are not worth doing if they are done poorly. How then to introduce all of the students to this method?
Enter Big Hair Days
Thank God for the Internet. The Great Books Foundation put out this as part of their introductory materials some years ago but it is still relevant. It gives an overview of a text under discussion ("The Melian Dialogue"), the rationale for Shared Inquiry, the discussion itself, and comments from students after the discussion.
This video helped everyone get on the same page and have a few laughs at the same time. I sometimes give a copy of the selection; other times, I simply summarize the dialogue itself. To help them follow along, I give them some questions to answer and an opportunity to ask questions.
For each section of 6th, 7th and 8th grade I concluded the activity with a question: Do you think you could have conversations like this? If so, do you want to?
Overwhelmingly, kids wanted to. It was a great success. It made AY 2014-2015 more than bearable.