A video to help you discover philosophical dimensions in topics
I used to be a secondary school English teacher, and that’s how I reconnected with P4C in 2008 after an initial taste of it on a course run by Roger Sutcliffe way back in 1995. The approach I have developed has diverged from the traditional 10-steps model to focus on three principles which I expand on in Philosophy Circles:
Get Moving – Engaging children rapidly through talk activities that often involve standing up and snowballing groups from pairs through to larger groups to build confidence, or making the thinking physical by moving yourself or some stuff, and community builders that address specific skills needed for philosophical dialogue through games.
Y-Questions – Contestable questions, often presented as a binary that is open to subversion, and usually provided initially by the facilitator to get sessions started efficiently. I think there is merit in then listening out for questions that emerge organically from the discussion, rather than emphasizing the generation of questions as an early, formal stage in the proceedings.
Take a Back Seat – Changing the role of the teacher to that of facilitator by “going into orbit”, taking oneself out of the circle, by avoiding having too much of a script of how things should go, and by focussing on coaching questions that avoid the imposition of the facilitator’s own thinking.
I train teachers in the UK and internationally, most often through a combination of observing workshops with pupils, participating in sessions, with the theory coming in on the back of that practical experience. I also run weekly sessions of philosophy on Zoom with homeschoolers from 6-18 years old, and with adults, through my other organisations www.p4he.org and www.giftcourses.co.uk The latter is an organisation that supports children who are “beyond their years” in their learning, which in normal times has a summer school and other residentials.
I’m also the founder of www.outspark.co.uk, an outdoor education company which, as well as the usual DofE and multi-activity trips, also provides instructors-in-residence for Thinking Adventures that combine outdoor skills with philosophical enquiry, supporting the wider curriculum in primary schools.
I am a keen theatrical improviser, and I find that many skills such as good listening, and willingness to pursue ideas without preconceptions are common to improv and to philosophy. I live on a narrowboat in Cambridge and enjoy caving and hillwalking.
A readers' theatre script exploring the idea of a 'fair society' and using John Rawls 'Veil of Ignorance' as a central idea.
Four original illustrated stories, available to subscribers in PowerPoint format - ideal for a class reading.
Monsters are a standard feature of literature from myth to children's fiction. This stimulus story raises the question of why monsters are important.
Link to an accessible but thought-provoking article on questions around 'bad morality', conscience and empathy. It's not suitable for classroom use, but it's a good example of philosophical skills at work.
A story about how a new dam threatens the way of life, and livelihoods, of villagers downstream. Includes ideas for enquiries.
A open-ended dialogue about sharing and fairness. A group of teenagers are planning a hiking trip. How should they share the load?
A story about a cynical dragon, unimpressed by the do-gooding antics of the knight in shining armour about to slay it.
An activity to explore the question: 'What do you need to be happy?' There are some picture cards for young children to use but you could do the activity with any age group.
A man searches for and finds a way to live forever but is chased by death. Story and ideas for a discussion about morality and fate with KS2 children.
A girl's father uses an invention to find a replacement for an old friend - with exactly the same personality. Story and suggestions for exploring the nature of friendship.
A teenager dreams he is discussing his future with versions of himself from the past and the future. Story and ideas for a discussion of personal decision-making.
An activity to consider a set of opinions in relations to concepts such as truth, belief, reason, and so on.
An original story about being good, doing good and being good at something. Lesson ideas are included.