I have a quadruple whammy for you today. A stimulus which can be used for a world of inquiries, two suggested lesson plans to go with it and a blank Quests and Questions template for you to use for your own P4C, Thinking Moves or just normal planning.
The stimulus is a story about an old olive tree and a tiny olive. There are many different questions it could lead onto. This week, though, my mind is turned to two main things, hence my two plans.
The first is the concept of 'old' and 'young'. This weekend it is our 'On Parade' weekend in the town I live in and the town will host many celebrations, bands and events, organised by Armed Forces Veterans and celebrating all things 1940s. The parade will be led by a D Day veteran but also in the parade will be people from the armed forces, cadets and organisations old and young. Which led me to wonder... what is old? My grandmother is 93 but says that in her head she is still 21. Is she old? Which part matters? The outside or the inside? What about a house built in the 1920s? Is it old? In comparison to what? Can we say, in isolation, that anything is old or is it all comparative? What about the rain, or sand, or the tide? Are they old or young? So that is the basis of the first lesson plan.
The other thing which has dominated my thoughts this half term is, of course, transitions. I have one child moving to a new school, 18 moving onto Reception Class, 8 going from being the youngest in my class to being the oldest and 31 children preparing to start in my class in September. So with a plethora of end of year crafts and parties, induction sessions, stay and plays, parent meetings, end of year data, reports and home visits I am very much living in the dreaded limbo of 'Transition World' right now.
The second lesson plan is, therefore, not strictly a philosophical one but more of a social and emotional development one. That is what I love about Thinking Moves A-Z though. Sure it is an amazing metacognition tool for P4C but it is actually far more transferable and universal than that and can be used for anything you want to teach (or learn. Seriously - I am going to use it as a tool this summer holiday myself to try to help me take a broad minded approach to learning Spanish).
So the second plan I offer you today is one focused on transitions and can be used for any transition from a move to Reception Class all the way up to the move to High School.
Finally I have included a Quests and Questions template for your own use. I hope it is some help.
This week my mind has been largely taken up with maths mastery. I say mostly but it has also been a week of induction sessions for my September new starters, the usual chaos of Early Years, two incidents of interrupted water fights in the pre-school bathroom, several toilet incidents, a lot of rain leading to lots of giddy children and juggling three of my own children at home. Back to the maths though.
I am currently part of a maths hub project looking at finding mathematics approaches that are accessible to all, with a particular focus on being beneficial to children with special educational needs and children who are gifted and talented.
As I am sure most of you will know it is sometimes difficult to differentiate lessons so that all children are able to both access and progress. In addition most schools and settings are now making (or made some time ago) a much needed move towards whole class teaching, as opposed to taking children out of class during input sessions for intervention and as a result and depriving them of the opportunity to access the same learning as the rest of the class. It is always a bit tricky to be able to plan something which ticks all of the boxes though. To be accessible but stretching in equal amounts for the middle ability learners, the gifted and talented, the children with additional needs and everyone in between.
Over the last year we have had a heavy focus in class on the benefits of conversation and sustained shared thinking instead of information heavy inputs and focused activities. This has fit in beautifully with our P4C sessions and we are now doing a lot of our Development Matters learning via P4C enquiries. More recently Thinking Moves has given me an even better framework for creating these sessions and maths is a prime example of how a simple conversational session can create a complex understanding of a concept and still be accessible to every learner at their own personal level of understanding.
As part of my input into the maths hub project I created a quick guide to some ways in which Thinking Moves A-Z can be used to explore mathematical thinking in the Early Years. You can get a copy of that here on the DialogueWorks website.
You will also be amazed to see quite how many Thinking Moves come out of just one enquiry. Here is a lesson plan which is a perfect example. This one asks the big question ... "What is 4?"
I am feeling very fortunate this week as my next two lesson plans have been edited and advised by Roger Sutcliffe of Thinking Moves and DialogueWorks.
This week's lesson is a fun one for Early Years and you can bend it to any topic you are currently doing in class. We are going to bake a cake! This Thinking Move is 'Ahead'. The ability for children to look ahead and predict what might happen in different alternate realities is a useful skill in all areas of their lives and one they have already been playing with.
As I discussed in my Pre-School Philosophers post, thinking ahead is something which pre-schoolers have already begun to do. Our pre-schoolers have been amateur problem solvers since birth. How do I get my carer’s attention? How do I get that food to my mouth? How do I get across the floor to my toy? How do I move my legs and arms alternately to crawl, walk, run? How do I get that off the shelf? Now, at pre-school level, their problem solving skills are reaching their first all time high. The problems they can solve are not just the physical and immediate anymore. Oh no. Now they have the skills to listen to imaginary scenarios and figure out a world of different possible actions and outcomes.
This lesson plan taps into that skill and makes it one which can be more formally encouraged. Throughout the plan there are several places where different Thinking Moves from the A-Z have been picked out. They are mainly in bold type. Don't be afraid to start to introduce these words to your children... "Today we are going to practice Thinking Ahead". In taking this easy step you are pushing your lesson from one where you are simply chatting about making a cake into one where you are starting to introduce children to the language of metacognition in the simplest and most accessible way.
A big thank you to Roger, who helped me to see that so many Thinking Moves appear in the simplest of activities! For anyone wanting to learn more about Thinking Moves A-Z or for the full A-Z list you can see it on the DialogueWorks website.
Some ways in which this plan could slip into your normal planning based on a theme could be...
Farms, Harvest, Produce, Little Red Hen - Refer to the things you have learnt already about where food comes from
Minibeasts - Make honey cakes
Traditional tales - make porridge instead (Goldilocks) or a savoury bean cake (Jack and the Beanstalk)
Plant life cycles - talk about the wheat that has been grown to make the flour
Animal life cycles - talk about the things you know about eggs or make one of the baked goods from The Hungry Caterpillar
Climates and Countries - make a cake from a different place in the world
Celebrations - make Simnel cake, Christmas cake or spring rolls
Healthy Bodies - Make a sugar free recipe. Maybe a beetroot cake
There are so many ways that you can link this activity to your current theme that you could go ahead and do it now!
So here is the plan. Let's get baking...
Richard Gore is a freelance P4C trainer working across Greater Manchester. He runs a weekly philosophy session at the Booth Centre in central Manchester for people experiencing homelessness.
For the past two years Richard has been leading the Building Resilience to Enquiry project which focuses on how the use of P4C can be used to build understanding and critical thinking about extremism and terrorism. Richard has a background in teaching in both primary and secondary schools as well as working for Oldham LEA with a focus on promoting ethnic minority achievement and community cohesion.
In both my Level 2A and 2B Philosophy for Children training I had the pleasure of being trained by Richard Gore. For anyone wanting to explore extremism in their P4C sessions or looking for a P4C scheme of work exploring extremism, Richard is your go to guy. I recently interviewed Richard.
In your training session introductions you talk about “roots and routes”. Could you give us a bit of background on this and also on your own journey to P4C
I like to share some very basic information about myself at the beginning of a training course so that participants know a little bit about me. I also like to do this in a way that is true to our practice in philosophy of exploring words and meaning. One simple way we do this is through the game of same and different and I really like to get participants to think about how these two words differ and yet also may have ways in which they have things in common.
My roots are very much in the north of England having been brought up near Bradford. Then through studying French and Spanish at university my route took me to France and Spain and Argentina before returning back to my roots for a year in Bradford. I then taught in Cambridge for 8 years before coming back again to my roots in the North to work in Oldham. It was in Oldham that I discovered Philosophy for Children and, over time, took a lead role in developing a schools and communities project. I immediately took to it as it is so great at doing some of things that I think education should all be about. Like providing opportunities for learners to engage with each other in high-quality dialogue to explore some of the biggest issues of life!
How did you first become involved in your projects relating to P4C and extremism?
Like so many other people I was really troubled by the attack on the Manchester arena in May 2017. It somehow was more personal as it was here in Manchester where I live and where I'm bringing up my children. I wanted to make a positive response to the event and the obvious way of doing this was to see how we could use the P4C methodology of dialogue and enquiry to develop understanding of why these things happen and how we can best respond to them. I put together a partnership group of P4C lead practitioners in schools in greater Manchester as well as p4c trainers from the North West. Following a period of research we began to develop and trial a range of activities suitable for Upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3.
How is the project going? What have been the main findings so far?
Following the development of the resource over the academic year 2017/2018 we involved over 35 schools nationally in piloting the resource over the autumn term 2018. The response was overwhelmingly positive from teachers and pupils. Teachers observed that combining the P4C methodology with the complex and thought-provoking activities we have developed allowed them to tackle these issues with confidence in the classroom. Pupils were really engaged in the activities and felt that they had really explored some key issues relating to extremism and terrorism and would definitely recommend the use of the resource in other schools with other students.
Your resource, “Using P4C to build understanding and critical thinking in relation to Extremism” covers both historical and very current events, such as the Manchester bombings. Why do you feel it is important to look at very historical events such as the activities of the Suffragettes when examining current extremism?
This is a really important question. We felt it was really important that pupils had an understanding that terrorism is not new and is not unique to our country. It seemed really important that there was an understanding that many different kinds of groups of people representing different religious or political views have taken part in terrorist activity. We also felt it was important that pupils had this understanding before we began to explore the recent events.
We then felt more able to consider in parallel the attack on the Manchester arena and the attack on Jo Cox MP that took place in South Yorkshire some months previously. We were able to explore the common factors that led to the radicalisation of the two men who carried out the attacks. It was really fascinating and rewarding researching the lives of Salman Abedi and Thomas Maier and to see the remarkable parallels between the factors that that led them to carry out their attacks.
Do you think that P4C could hold the key to helping teens avoid radicalisation?
There is no one single answer to help teens avoid radicalisation. However, I am certain that the resource we have developed with P4C as the core pedagogy, can play a major part. We are now working hard to grow the project to other schools and other areas of the country.
Your work using Philosophy for Children activities as part of The Oldham Dialogue and Enquiry Project was referenced in the DfE paper “Teaching Approaches That Help to Build Resilience to Extremism Among Young People”. Do you think we will see a day when P4C will be further embraced and recommended by the DfE as an approach to be used across the curriculum? How could P4C benefit the different areas of the Secondary National Curriculum?
As you know we have had an extensive research and training project funded by the Education Endowment Fund with a specific focus on coming to a judgement as to whether p4c improves attainment and other educational outcomes at the end of primary school. This could be the breakthrough that is needed to arrive at a situation where the DFE endorses philosophy for children and recommends its use nationally. Establishing P4C practice in secondary schools has always been a challenge, however there is now an increased emphasis in the secondary curriculum on developing reasoning and higher level skills of critical thinking. This also provides a great opportunity.
What is the most useful advice or tip you have picked up during your time as a P4C trainer and facilitator?
I remember a quote from Professor Robert Fisher that I sometimes use on Level 1 training courses that says children do not lack the ability to think they just need to be provided with the opportunities. The wonderful thing about Philosophy for Children is that the children themselves really take to it like ducks to water! So, let's make sure we give them the opportunity to develop questioning, deeper thinking and enquiry across the curriculum and across their school life! It could be the best educational gift that we give them!
If you would like to read the full overview of the Building Resilience to Enquiry project which focuses on how the use of P4C can be used to build understanding and critical thinking about extremism and terrorism then please click on the link within this sentence.
For some more background the following video clip shows the project in action. In it you will see a group of Year 6 children at St Annes Primary School in Manchester taking part in the activity 'The Diversity of Terrorism' as well as teachers from Cheetham Primary School in Manchester talking briefly about the experience of taking part in the project and the positive outcomes for their Year 6 pupils.
The Diversity of Terrorism Video
Many thanks to Richard for being the first interview in my new “Inspirational Interviews” section on Magical Mess.
This week I read my new copy of Thinking Moves A-Z by Roger Sutcliffe, Tom Bigglestone and Jason Buckley.
Thinking Moves is an easy to read mini guide to an A-Z of metacognition skills. For each letter you are given a skill and told how this is already seen in children and how it can be further developed. The book can be read from A to Z or dipped into as required. I am going to be dipping into it for inspiration every week. This week my lesson plan for P4C is based around the skill that is given for D - Divide. Next week I will be basing my planning on the skill for J - Justify.
Thinking Moves is a lovely slim book which makes it easy to pop in your bag. The skills and activities are beautifully transferrable from Early Years to Further Education.
For the full list of A-Z Thinking Moves please visit this link where you will also find more information about the framework and training, along with a video of Roger Sutcliffe talking about the approach.
To order your own copy click here
To give Thinking Moves a go with my letter D planning please see the below plans and enjoy. I will be doing this tomorrow with my 3 and 4 year olds.
Bear with my ramblings for a moment. I promise there is a planning document at the bottom of this post.
This week I was very lucky. I got to go to an Early Years conference that had some inspiring ideas for Understanding the World, Mathematics, ICT, Design Technology and Literacy. The conference was called 'The Really Practical Early Years Annual Conference - Developing Effective Provision for More Able Children in EYFS' and was run by the Lancashire Professional Development Service.
I was particularly inspired by the Key Note Speaker, Rachael Webb (Teaching and Learning Consultant, Primary Science). I had heard she was good from a colleague who had seen her speak before but I wasn't prepared for coming away with three whole pages of ideas to try that I hadn't tried before. All from a one hour session! The tone she set with her session, which was a theme which then ran through the whole conference, was that the key to learning is questioning. Not superficial questioning but in depth quality interactions which put children in the driving seat and us in the role of a facilitator who is helping them to explore the world, their choices and their reasoning. I know. In hindsight that is obvious right? So why do we forget it all the time?
I blame Pinterest personally. And all of the many, many, different choices of approach that are available to us in the EYFS. I do love the flexibility of not having to stick to the National Curriculum like our Key Stage colleagues but it can seem overwhelming that, in dealing with the woolly Development Matters, we are left swimming in a sea of Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Curiosity Approach, Pie Corbett, Dough Disco, Finger Gym, In The Moment Planning, Helicopter Stories, skills based, schema based, hessian clad sea of uncertainty. I do love all of those things in themselves but all together? No. Choose between? How?
In P4C I have found a wagon I can hitch my cart to. Because the underlying principles seem to be the ones that came out in every session I attended in the Early Years conference. That what children need from us in the early years is to learn new words, to hear and ask questions, to respect and care for each other and to make choices. We should be asking "what if?", "what do you notice?" and "what do you think?" We should be encouraging children to observe and explore, wonder and ask questions, look for similarities and changes. More than anything else we should just enjoy talking to our tots and having high quality interactions. The tiny window in which their brains and personalities are filled with wonder and unencumbered by societal expectations is the tiny window that we are privileged enough to peer into. The Early Years conference reminded me why I am striving to have a philosophical teaching approach in my daily life.
So get stuffed Pinterest!!! (Until I need some inspiration again and then I will admit I still love you. We were just on a break ok?)
My P4C planning this week was born from an idea that was suggested in the Early Years Conference (in which P4C wasn't even mentioned), proving my point (to myself) that P4C is transferable into all areas of the EYFS classroom.
So here is my P4C planning (using my QUESTS approach) for this week which could just as easily be used for an Understanding the World or Communication and Language activity.
Would a worm make a good pet???
Our school is currently working towards the Silver Award and this week our trainer, the lovely Gina of Little Chatters, was in for a day. At the end of the day she did a training session for staff. There were two things which particularly struck me in this week's training session which will inform my planning and practice as I continue on our journey with P4C.
Gina did a fun starter activity with us using a rope which was a full circle and had a knot in it. The starter activity was a game in which one person had to stand in the middle of the circle and it was up to everyone else to work as a team to conceal the knot. At the end the person in the middle had to guess where the knot had ended up. Gina then talked about different ways to use this technique including as a way for each person in an enquiry to have their final words. It is this that I plan to use in some of my enquiries from now on with my 3-4 year olds. They will love it.
This then led me on to thinking about the 4Cs and in particular collaboration, as both of these uses of the knot have a heavy foundation of collaboration. I started to think of all the ways in which we already collaborate during our day in the classroom.
This led me on to thinking about how one of the trickier parts of my enquiries (which is probably the easiest part for older children) is explaining the 4Cs at the start of each session. Caring, Critical, Collaborative and Creative. The words are self explanatory to most people (although I am sure, like me, most of you have suddenly gone blank when asked to give examples or definitions in your own teacher training sessions) however they are not so easily understood for a 3 year old.
So I am taking a new approach. I am going to put four sheets up on my P4C display board which are blank apart from the 4Cs. A sheet for each C. Myself and the other practitioners can then add examples throughout the day of how the children have displayed these skills during their normal play. We can then start using these words more regularly throughout our normal sessions to encourage children to begin to have a broader understanding of what they mean. "I loved listening to you on your superhero adventure. It was really creative when you made a machine to freeze people", "Let's work together to tidy up everyone - let's collaborate", and so on. That way the children will hopefully have a more embedded understanding of what the 4Cs actually mean both in practice and in enquiries by the time they move on through to Reception Class.
The second thing I took away to work on was as a result of a good friend's work in her P4C session this week (which was observed by Gina). This was an enquiry for a group of 4-5 year olds based on Beauty and the Beast and what the meaning of 'beauty' is. This was based largely on examining the characters of Beast and Gaston and a discussion of 'what is beauty?', looking at inner and outer beauty. The planning and session were actually a lot more in depth than I have described here but for my purposes of this post those are the important parts.
The class had a Forrest School session based on ephemeral art planned for the afternoon and, after discussion with Gina, the teacher decided to continue her exploration of 'beauty' through that session. The children first collected things and put them in one of two hoops (I love a good hoop in P4C!). One hoop for 'beautiful' and one for 'not beautiful'. As they found some rubbish during their session this further helped the discussions. Each child was then told to make a piece of ephemeral art that depicted 'beautiful' or 'not beautiful' then the class went around to discuss whether they thought the artist was trying to depict 'beautiful' or 'not beautiful'. Again the session was more in depth than I have described here but you get my point. What I took from hearing about this was two things which will inform my future practice.
1. I need to do more concept work. I do explore concepts then return to them in greater depth at later times but I think that I could do this better. With my age group, in particular, I think I need to drench them in a concept for a short period of time rather than sprinkling them with it throughout the year. I think that next academic year I will chose a concept for each half term and base my enquiries around that concept so that we can really pick apart and examine what that concept means over a shorter but more intense period. I can then refer back to that concept throughout the year.
2. It is perfectly possible to have P4C as a way of working all the time and not just for enquiries. If you have read some of my other posts you will see that I am already a big fan of embedding a P4C approach in every part of teaching and parenting and think that we already instinctively do this but I am only just figuring out HOW to do this in more of a premeditated way. Thanks to the example above and the work and advice of other practitioners in different settings and on P4C forums I am starting to see how this really can be an approach to Early Years practice and this is something I am going to continue to study and work towards in my own classroom.
Have fun with your quests and questions this week all. May the P4C force be with you!
Both scary and exciting, transitions are something that our children have to deal with every year. Here are a few ideas for enquiries and activities.
Transitions, new classes, new schools
We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen is one of my personal favourites when it comes to picture books and works with all ages. Here are some possible activities and enquiries.
Julia Donaldson is a firm favourite in most Early Years classrooms. Here are some possible enquiries and activities.
Here are some enquiry starters and some linked activities that you could use as you celebrate spring.
Here are some enquiries and activities to do this Easter
Here are some activities that you could explore in or after your enquiries during Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
The New Year offers up a few opportunities for talking about the year passed and the year to come.
New Year’s Resolutions
During pantomime season it is a great time to explore some traditional tales.
Traditional Tales (Pantomime season)
Rainy and Windy Weather
Winter is a time to explore some wonderful celebrations through P4C enquiries along with some fun activities and enhancements
Autumn brings so many opportunities for seasonal enquiries and enhancements. Here are just a few.
Here are some enquiry prompts and ideas that can be used in the summer months. For this age group they are best used either as they join you in September or in July just before their summer holidays.
You can use P4C easily in your classroom as a tool to help new starters get to know each other and begin to explore some rules of the setting. Here are some ideas of enquiry questions and enhancements.
Making Friends - Questions, Books and Activities
Making Rules - Questions, Books and Activities
By the age of 3-4 years old a typically developing child will be talking using simple sentences. Many children will be using more complex sentences using words like ‘and’ and ‘because’. They will be starting to understand simple questions and will be asking questions of their own. Most prolifically ‘why?’ Most children will now be experts at role play and imaginary play and will have absorbed three to four years of language, stories, television and song. They will be able to understand emotions when supported and starting to understand that their own actions can have an effect on other people’s emotions.
Although they will not necessarily have the best moral judgement themselves they do now have a sense of justice, most often knowing when something is ‘bad/wrong’ or ‘good/right’ and, being the most pressing issue in a young child’s life, the concept of fairness. This will usually raise it’s head with both unreasonable requests (‘I want a big chocolate bar not a small one. That’s not fair’) and those that are more reasonable (‘He isn’t sharing. It’s my turn’).
Also on their personal and social development they will be starting to be able to imagine themselves in other real life scenarios. For example they can imagine then answer the question “How would you feel if you got lost?” which they probably weren’t able to do in their toddler years. They can also understand and answer more complex questions more effectively, though the answers may conform to their own child logic and not necessarily to the logic of adults.
Philosophical Skill – Listening and Attention
Philosophical Skill – Imagination and Social Skills
Philosophical Skill – Problem Solving
Philosophical Skill – Language Development.
Philosophical Skill – Problem Solving and Making Choices
Philosophical Skill – Question Words
Philosophical Skill – Imagination and Awareness
Philosophical Skill – Counter Realities.
Ah toddlers. Tiny little dictators with great big emotions. It is the toddler years where you first get a glimpse of a child’s true personality. They have done their learning on how to be alive and survive. They have learnt so, so much over the first two years of their life and now (oh no!) they have learnt that they are a master of their own fate. Now the curiosity is really ready to kick in.
Toddlers are entering such an amazing phase of childhood. They go from being little sponges who pleasantly take in the world around them to independent, stubborn, excitable souls. They are so happy and delighted that their knees go wobbly from laughter. They are so excited that they squeal. They run and spin as fast as they can. They are so angry that they have to scram and kick and throw things. They are so devastated that they sob their heart out with big fat tears rolling down their cheeks and a “why, why, why?” look on their little face. They are so in love that they can’t bear not to be in physical contact with you or a beloved toy. They are so filled with hate that if the cat comes any closer they will absolutely pull it’s tail and shout “NO CAT” at it. Toddlers really are discovering all of the emotions that the world has to offer. All those emotions you have spent the last two years teaching them about are now being experienced and they understand the words you use to describe them but cannot yet manage them.
It is around this age that toddlers really get a hold of imaginary play too. They have little adventures with figures or cars, they make you pretend cups of tea or use boxes as boats. They take all of the things they have seen on television or heard in stories and build the storylines, narratives, characters and situations into their play. They are beginning to learn about what is real but also have the ability to imagine other ‘realities’ and put themselves into different character roles as they begin to learn and practise empathy. A lot of their role play is based on things they have seen or experienced themselves and this is a philosophical skill too – to build up opinions and a bank of knowledge based on your own experiences.
Toddlers are problem solvers too. They get a car stuck in a play garage and will try different ways to get it out. They want a biscuit from a shelf in the cupboard so will drag something over to climb up and get it. They begin to try to dress and undress themselves. They figure out emotional problem solving as they manipulate adults into behaving the way they want them to. They can look at a toy that they want in the bottom of their toy box and can anticipate different possible approaches, scenarios and outcomes, on a basic level, as they figure out how to get to the said toy.
Toddlers are little philosophers in training so embrace the craziness and have fun with it.
During the first three years, a child's brain triples in weight and establishes about 1,000 trillion nerve connections and this starts from this very moment they are born. Here are the ways in which we are already making our babies into philosophers. You are already doing it, you just need to reframe your thinking a little bit to realise HOW you are doing it.
Philosophical Skill – Curiosity
The parietal lobe in baby’s brain makes them primed to begin to learn about the sensory aspects of their world. You help babies develop their sense of curiosity in everything you introduce them to and there is no better place to start than with their basic physical senses.
Philosophical Skill – Language.
Philosophical Skill – Listening
Philosophical Skill – Social Awareness and Higher Level Thinking
So did I teach you anything you don’t already know? Did I tell you to do anything you aren’t already doing as a parent or Early Years practitioner? I thought not. That is the beauty of a philosophical approach to pedagogy. For the most part you are already doing it, and have been for some time.
Babies are born as natural philosophers. All they have is ‘why?’. They have spent nine months with dulled and filtered lights and noises. The loudest noise they have heard is the constant, predictable beat of their mum’s heart and shwoosh, shwoosh of her blood stream. Then suddenly, without warning, they are thrust into the world; the noisy, bright chaotic world full of sights, sounds and assaults to the senses. They have no preconceptions, no opinions, no language. This lasts for mere seconds.
They instantly begin to soak in the world. It starts from the most basic knowledges – that hurts, that feels nice, that’s interesting. The longer they are in the world the more they soak in and digest. Soon they learn who their special people are, what to do when they are hungry and that they voice makes sound and that sound makes people react. Before you know it the googles, coos and social smiles come and Hey Presto! You have a mini human ready to learn about the world. Sure you won’t get a Socrates worthy enquiry out of them. More likely to get a bit of milky vomit and a loose nappy. You do, however, have a tiny sponge who is ready to learn.
So what better time than to start building a mini-Plato. Guess what – you are already doing it. You fuel their curiosities every day by introducing new experiences, new tastes, textures, smells and sounds. You build their vestibular and proprioceptive curiosity and awareness as you hug them tight, wrap them in sleep bags, bounce them on your knee and carry them around. You build their language as you speak and sing to them. You build their sense of the imaginary as you use silly voices. You show them that their vocalisations have a purpose and effect as you respond to their cries or copy their sounds. This is the time when tiny humans learn that their voice has power. It is the time where they first begin to make personal and social connections.
To begin their philosophical journey we make sure that they spend time looking at faces – ours or other people’s. We pull happy faces, sad faces, angry faces. We mirror their facial expressions. We explore different sights, sounds and textures. We introduce different tastes when they are ready for food. Perhaps opting for baby-led weaning where an awful lot of problem solving goes into your baby figuring out how to get that food to their mouth. Through all of this we talk. We talk to the babies, throwing every word we know at them.
We don’t dumb down what we say in the hope it will be more easily understood. We use all of our words, because if a child does not hear them they will not learn them. If a 6 month old does not understand “happy girl” then what harm will it be to instead say “You are such a happy girl. You are smiling so I know you are happy”? The same message with the same key word emphasised (and repeated) but with thirteen extra words used and a linking explanation – you are happy and I know that because you are smiling. Let’s give our tiny dots those extra words when we can. Not all the time, of course. As parents or practitioners we definitely don’t have time (in our boring adult world) to be keeping up that level of pre-meditated talk all the time. After all there are dishes to be done and assessments to be highlighted and tracked but we can do it more. A lot more, and before you know it it has become a habit.
Miss Magical Mess is a pre-school teacher and P4C Level 2B facilitator. After a shaky start as a P4C facilitator (P4C with 3 year olds... are you kidding?) Miss Magical Mess created her own approach to P4C and enquiry model and is now a big fan.