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.
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???
A quest is a long and arduous search for something, it is a late Middle English word from the Old French queste (noun)/ quester (verb), based on Latin quaerere which meant ‘ask, seek’. Most commonly used as a word for an epic adventure or in a ‘quest for knowledge.’ What better word to describe a philosophical journey? So, I created the QUESTS model to take my class on an epic philosophical journey each week and, even better, do it within the 15 minutes window of time that a 3-5 year old is often able to maintain attention and excitement for an adult led activity. So here is the overview of a QUESTS.
This is the starting post of your quest. What do you want to know today? First remind the children of your community guidelines and 4Cs (see Lesson 1 and 2). If you have a prop, like Philosophy Frog, then have the toy pose the question of the day. Make this your big concept question. Don’t worry you can drill down later. See the lesson plans in this book to give you some ideas. See if anyone wants to try an answer to the question straight away.
e.g. Are teddies real?
Give some more depth to the question. Explain why you are asking. For example it might be a question that you are wondering about because of a book you have just read aloud or something that happened in class. An example of this might be “I asked if teddies are real. What I mean is, do they come alive when no-one is watching?”
Get the children to vote on the question. For this question the answer will be ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You may have children who say they don’t know. Try to press them for an opinion but if you are getting nowhere then don’t be afraid to add a ‘I’m not ready to decide yet’ option. Methods of voting could be hands up, holding a picture up or anything you can think of. Personally I find that voting with feet works best i.e. go to this side of the room if you think… and that side of you think… I have tried this with Key Workers but the risk is that children will just go to their own Key Worker or the person they like best instead of making a decision. When voting with feet it is often easy to spot the children who copy their friends or the children who are unsure what they think.
Once children have chosen their side ask a couple of children from each side to explain why they chose that way. After the voting get everyone to sit back down in the group. It may help to keep children roughly in their group so that you can see who changes their mind as the enquiry goes on.
Now that the group is sitting down again remind them of the initial question. Invite everyone to share their ideas. As you see opportunities introduce new facts or questions. Encourage children to agree or disagree with each other and build on each other’s ideas (however be mindful that this isn’t something that you are likely to see until children are confident philosophisers). In this example a new facts and question might be ‘I thought that our teddy did come alive at night but Mr … said I have never actually seen it happen so it can’t be true. Is he right?”
Carry on with the enquiry until you feel it has run its natural course.
Thank everyone for their input and involvement. You may want, at this point, to highlight children who did particularly well or showed progress in their abilities since your last enquiry. Try to link your thanks to your community guidelines or the 4Cs. I have found that a nice way to do this when first starting out is to have two hula hoops in different colours. Select children who have spoken to hold onto one hoop and children who haven’t to hold onto the other. Say “well done to everyone holding the blue hoop. You were critical and creative because you gave answers and thoughts today” “well done to the children holding the red hoop. You were caring and followed our guideline to listen nicely to your friends when they spoke. You all made a decision when you voted too.”
Skills (and Concepts)
The skills you would like to encourage today and the concepts and key words you might come across during the enquiry
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.