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...
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???
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.