‘Philosophy’ means ‘love of wisdom’ in Greek.
If you are being philosophical, you are wondering about thoughtful questions, and trying to understand them better.
Critical thinking is a key requirement of global citizenship and community cohesion. Unless people can learn to think independently then there is always the possibility that they will be led, unthinkingly, into behaving in ways that may be damaging to themselves, others or the environment.
Philosophical enquiry develops these critical thinking skills.
Since 2014 children have been taking part in weekly Ultimate Question sessions. These have been based around the Philosophy for Children approach. From 2014 - 2017 these sessions have taken place in house teams. Teams have met and completed ice-breaker tasks and then have split into LKS2 and UKS2 groupings for their P4C session.
In 2016/7 children asked if P4C sessions could happen in classes. Therefore, sessions became class based from September 2017. This academic year we were chosen to be part of the Education Endowment Fund Research into how P4C can raise attainment in children. With this came SAPERE/Thinkwell training for all staff to enable them to deliver P4C more effectively across the school. Horndale Infants joined us in this training so that P4C can be part of our children's learning experiences across the Primary phase.
We aim to develop higher order thinking skills, improve communication skills and help children learn to co-operate with others.
We believe children should think for themselves, participate in dialogue, support each other in building ideas and understand and value their own opinions and opinions different to their own. Children need to develop a good understanding that their views and ideas can change or indeed become more solid in their basis through being challenged by others.
Children learn through the 10 steps of philosophical enquiry:
1. Getting Set - a group activity
2. Presentation of a Stimulus
3. Thinking Time
5. Formulation of questions
6. Airing of questions
7. Selection (voting)
8. First Thoughts
9. Building Ideas Together
10. Final Thoughts
A typical philosophy lesson starts with a game and then the children being given a stimulus, such as a picture book, a video or a piece of music or art. They then come up with a list of philosophical questions inspired by the stimulus – anything from, ‘Are friends more important than family?’ to, ‘Is it ever okay to steal?’ – and vote on which one to talk about. The class then has an ‘enquiry’ – an open dialogue – around that question.
Here are some good resources to kick-start philosophical conversations with your child.
The Philosophy Foundation has a list of recommended books, online resources, poems and films. The Philosophy Shop by Peter Worley (£14.99) is a book of puzzles, ideas and exercises to get children (and adults) thinking philosophically.
Picture books: ‘Well-known books like Not Now, Bernard by David McKee, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Would you Rather? by John Burningham are great starting points for philosophical discussions,’ says Lizzy.
Teaching Thinking, the website of children’s philosophy expert Robert Fisher, includes a range of resources, including discussion plans and stories to talk about.
SAPERE's website has a comprehensive list of recommended books for children and adults.
What’s the Big Idea? is a CBeebies series introducing critical thinking to young children. You’ll find episodes and activities on their website.
The world around you! Opportunities to think philosophically are everywhere. ‘Even watching Newsround can prompt good discussions,’ says Lizzy. ‘What’s important is that they’re directed by your child: he’ll genuinely enjoy the challenge of thinking for himself.’
Children are taught to ask a range of questions from all areas of the Question Quadrant.
Over time they will come to realise that the best questions for discussion are the Starry Questions that are open and move beyond the stimulus. However, they are good to discuss after the other pressing questions have had time to be aired, explored and discussed.
The Medium Term Plan 2017 (below) is a starting point for teachers. Everyday life, however can generate much more relevant resources to begin a P4C session. For example we have used President Trump's suggestion to arm teachers after school shooting, The World Cup and Humanitarian disasters.
Make connections, think of new ideas, explore possibilities, compare things and suggest alternatives.
Ask ‘big idea’ questions, test their ideas, give good reasons, look for evidence and suggest conclusions.
Think about what’s said, listen to others carefully, imagine how others feel, don’t interrupt and wait their turn.
Speak to each other, build on ideas, are friendly & helpful, share their experiences and work together.
Children complete self-assessments of these skills and staff teacher assess the children on our school tracking system. Their final teacher assessment for the year is fed back to parents on the end of year report, under speaking and listening.
The P4C Lead Teachers who are qualified to Level 2a are:
The following staff have completed P4C Level 1a: