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.
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
The New Year offers up a few opportunities for talking about the year passed and the year to come.
New Year’s Resolutions
Autumn brings so many opportunities for seasonal enquiries and enhancements. Here are just a few.
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
Making Relationships Early Learning Goals
1. Children play co-operatively, taking turns with others.
2. They take account of one another’s ideas about how to organise their activity.
3. They show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings.
4. They form positive relationships with adults and other children
Why should we take turns? Why should we share?
Should we have to take turns/share if the toy is mine from home?
If something is mine should I have the choice about whether to share?
Who should I share with? Why?
Are other people’s ideas as important as mine? Are mine more important? Less? What makes an idea important?
How can I tell how someone is feeling? Does smiling always mean happy? What is happy/ sad/ angry?
Why are people shy?
Who are better to spend time with – children or adults? Why?
Self Confidence and Self Awareness Early Learning Goals
1. Children are confident to try new activities.
2. They can say why they like some activities more than others.
3. They are confident to speak in a familiar group.
4. They will talk about their ideas.
5. They will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities.
6. They say when they do or don’t need help.
Am I brave? What is brave? Is brave good?
Am I brave if I am scared?
What is your favourite game/toy? Why is it better than ….?
Do girls always like dolls and boys always like cars? Why? Why not?
If we are building a cardboard box robot how should we stick it together? Why would glue/sticky tape/staples/string be the best?
Doe we always know when people need help?
Should we always help?
Should we help people we aren’t friends with?
Can children help as well as adults can?
Managing Feelings and Behaviour Early Learning Goals
1. Children talk about how they and others show feelings.
2. Children talk about their own and others’ behaviour and its consequences and know that some behaviour is unacceptable.
3. They work as part of a group or class and understand and follow the rules.
4. They adjust their behaviour to different situations.
5. They take changes of routine in their stride.
How do we show people we are sad?
Should people know we are sad if we don’t want them to?
How can we tell if someone is angry?
What is the difference between angry/sad, happy/excited, scared/excited?
Is it ever right to smack?
Is it right to shout at someone?
Why do we need rules?
What would happen without rules?
Should every class have the same rules?
Do we need the same rules at home and school?
Do we need rules at home?
Do we need to be scared about changes?
Are changes good or bad?
As you will know, the foundations for all learning are personal and social skills and communication and language skills. Within the EYFS the social building blocks come under the umbrella term ‘Personal, Social and Emotional Development’. This is further broken down into ‘Making Relationships’, ‘Self Confidence and Self Awareness’ and ‘Managing Feelings and Behaviour.
There are so many opportunities for philosophical enquiry with relation to Personal, Social and Emotional Development. After all, the whole area is subjective and open to personal interpretation. What seems obvious to one child might be a foreign concept to another. By the time a child comes to you at age 3 or 4 they have had all sorts of different input (or lack of input). Children may come from a language rich environment, they may have been at home with a stay at home parent, at a childminder or a nursery. They might live with one, both or none of their parents, they might be an only child or one of many, they could have parents that are young, older or anywhere in between. Maybe English is not their first language or they are on the autistic spectrum. Maybe they are shy or overly confident, caring or lacking in empathy.
With children so far ranging in their backgrounds and personalities how can we possibly hope to get them all to the Early Learning Goal in one or two years? It can be frustrating to have a child who achieves in all areas but may not get a ‘Good Level of Development’ (what a soul destroying phrase!) because they have struggled with their social skills. Philosophy is made for areas like this.
Not only does it teach the children to follow rules it allows them to question why we need rules. Not only does it show them that they should be helpful but it allows them to explore what helpful means. Remember – the idea of a philosophical question is not to find the ‘right answer’ or the ‘truth’ but rather to allow children to explore concepts for themselves and build on each other’s ideas. This is why you should make an active decision about whether a question is going to be philosophical or not.
For example you might have the question “Why do we have rules?” during a carpet time session when setting your class rules. This will not be a philosophical enquiry. In fact this is a definite time for ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers. Why do we need rules about using the scissors? So Katie doesn’t cut Tom’s hair and so Javed doesn’t use our favourite picture book as collage material.
You could easily have this as a philosophical enquiry at a different time though, perhaps the week before you set your class rules or during the year when the rules have slipped a bit. The tangents you might take would be to explore what a rule is, what would happen if we didn’t have rules, is it ever ok to break the rules, what is most important; following the rules or doing the right thing, etc. Not all questions can be used for a philosophical enquiry but most can, if rephrased.
For some more specific ways to use P4C to support PSED please check out the other PSED entries.
This branch of philosophy is about the law, government and justice. With ethical philosophy the questions are mainly based around the person, either actual or imagined, and their behaviour and responsibilities. With political philosophy there is more of a societal view. It looks at how we behave as a society, being governed by laws.
So with ethical philosophy you might wonder if it is right or wrong to steal if you are hungry. With political philosophy you would look at what a ‘fair’ punishment might be if you got caught doing it. This might work well with a superhero theme or police station role play.
Questions could be asked such as;
· Why do we have laws/rules?
· Who should make the laws/rules?
· What should police be allowed to do?
· Is prison right?
· If you break a law/ do something wrong, what could you do to make it better?
· Should the Queen be able to arrest people?
· How do the police know they caught the right person? What if they keep saying “it wasn’t me”?
· Who should decide if someone should be put in jail?
- Who should decide how long they should stay for?
For Early Years practitioners this is the easy peasy one. You already do it every day. For philosophical purposes it is the philosophy of right and wrong, of decisions, of justice and personal responsibility. For our purposes it fits well with Personal, Social and Emotional Development and class rules. It also works well for children who struggle with social understanding, for example some people on the autistic spectrum, and with social stories.
Questions which may be asked include;
- Is it right to smack someone to stop them from hurting someone else?
· Do we have to share?
· What is ‘good’ and ‘bad’/ ‘right’ and ‘wrong’?
· Do humans matter more than animals?
· Do young people matter more than old people?
· Should people fight in wars?
· If someone leaves a toy on the floor and you tripped over it when you were running (but were told not to), is it their fault or your fault that you fell?
· If someone is mean to you is it right to be mean to them?
· What is ‘kind’?
· Do people always know when they need help?
· Can sharks be evil? What does evil mean?
· Why is it ok to kill an animal but not a human?
· Why is it ok to hit an animal with a stick or kick it but not a human? (horse racing)
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.