philosophy with 5 year olds

Hello! I’m Morven a fourth year B.Ed. student at Jordanhill. I’m currently out on placement with a p1 class, and this is a blog post about my experiences with philosophical inquiry in the classroom!

Last year on my third year placement I had a primary 7 class. I wanted to try out different teaching strategies that I had learned about at university. One of which was philosophy. The children were looking at ‘vivisection’ (class teacher’s idea!) as their topic to develop arguments within language. I decided to put I a philosophy lesson to allow the children to think as a group about what vivisection means to them which would help them develop their arguments for writing. However it did not go as I had planned. In fact the lesson was an absolute disaster!
I went into the lesson the wrong way for two reasons. Although we had already discussed vivisection as a class with reading books, the pupils never actually chose to talk about vivisection. Secondly I never had any stimulus to allow the children to think about something in context, such as a story or a picture.

This year I decided to try out philosophy again, this time with my primary one class! We are learning about different feelings you have. Each feeling is firstly explored through a story within a drama lesson, with the story being set in a toyshop (to link in with their environmental topic) and the children hear stories of toys who have different feelings, i.e. sad because their friend has been bought and left the toyshop, or angry for being teased by another toy etc. The feeling is then explored by a philosophical discussion. I tried this out with my primary one class a few weeks ago and I was so surprised how well it had gone, considering my last failed attempt!

I started by introducing a talking teddy toy. Whenever someone was holding the teddy that meant they got to speak. This helped to stop any interrupting and shouting out which may put shyer children off. I then showed the pupils a large image of a child feeling ‘left out’ on the whiteboard. I initially asked them to talk to me about what they see getting responses like “That girl is not being allowed to play by the other girls” “that girl is alone!” and asking the children to then elaborate on their responses, describing how each child may feel, or what they should do in the situation. The children needed very little from me, only a few questions and thoughts to help encourage the children to think about their opinions and ideas, but they had ownership of the conversation as they were responding to each other’s ideas! This is the difference between the first time I tried philosophical inquiry with my primary 7 class; although my p1s didn’t choose the topic they did choose the flow of conversation and of thought. My primary 7 class were not motivated or enthusiastic to talk about a topic they had little interest in in the first place, so they were then unable to use each other’s ideas as a basis to consider their own. Also by giving my primary one class a stimulus of the picture, this hooked them into the lesson and allowed them a visual reference to consider ideas.

The creative thinking and the way that the children spoke about their ideas was fantastic, it did show the ‘power’ of philosophy with young children. Young children love to talk to teachers- philosophical inquiry gives them opportunities to share with their teacher what they think about deeper issues and situations.

I hope this inspires some people to think about how they can implement philosophical inquiry into their classroom (and learn from my mistakes!)- after all if p1s can do it…

what is stopping the older children?!

I’d like to thank fellow B.Ed.4 Nicholas McMahon for giving me advice for planning philosophy with p1’s! : )

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