Ed’s Club presents Philosophy for Children
written by Jannene Ceeney-Bird
Several years ago when I was teaching 7-8 year olds , a local community charity was looking for ways to boost learning in the local community. They employed Dr. Sara Liptai from the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE) to run a project with several local schools and my class was chosen to take part. Watching Sara work with my children and seeing how even the quietest of children, especially those with learning difficulties, were able to participate and often come up with the most interesting comments and ideas during a Philosophy For Children (P4C) session, spurred me on to complete the Level 1 SAPERE training. I was also lucky to visit a school in Norwich, where all children from the age of four upwards had weekly P4C sessions which had raised standards across the school.
A typical P4C session consists of a stimulus being shared with the group, for example a story, then the children are encouraged to ask a question about it. The questions are written on a board and discussed with the group before each individual member is asked which question they would like to discuss in more detail. When the question is chosen (the one with the highest number of votes) the enquiry begins, usually with the person who asked the question in the first place, explaining why they were interested in that particular aspect of the stimulus. All children are encouraged to participate, respect each other’s comments and build on ideas they have heard. It sometimes takes a couple of sessions for children to feel able to speak out in the group, but listening is just as important as speaking and no-one has pressure put on them to speak out until they are ready to do so.
I have found that P4C is very good for encouraging quiet children to gain confidence in speaking and listening skills, as the structure of the sessions and the fact that everyone’s contributions are valued, makes them feel safe and builds their confidence.
What amazes me about P4C, is that children are able to transfer the questioning and thinking skills they develop in P4C sessions to other areas of their learning such as Science, History and RE. P4C gives them the confidence to challenge ideas and be critical, whilst still respecting the opinions and ideas of others.