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P4C Christmas Stimulus and Games

This issue is the Christmas special – if it’s too late for you, apologies, but lucky you for breaking up early. In contrast to previous years, this year’s stimulus is rather melancholy, exploring the changing nature of Christmas and childhood as seen by a Christmas Angel on top of a tree. It’s pasted below and downloadable here, and is probably best approached in traditional P4C style, getting children to generate questions.
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Previous Christmas editions, including disgruntled elves, a prima donna reindeer and a variety of puzzles, are at: www.thephilosophyman.com/christmas
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In contrast to the stimulus, four cheerful games that have the giving and receiving rhythm of the season. They are all paired turn-taking games which you should model in pairs with another adult or a confident child.
There’s a serious point to them – turn taking is fundamental to the development of conversational skills. You may have heard about the “million word gap” between the amount of language different children are exposed to before they start school. Looking in more detail, it turns out it is not the volume of language, but the number of conversational turns children get which is important in language development. Later on, the quality of those conversational turns – how much they attend to, respond and build on one another – is fundamental to the development of P4C.
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You’re welcome
This is a game from the world of improv about imagination and gratitude.
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A: “I got you something.” – hands their partner a chunk of empty space. It might be a tiny thing, it might be an enormous thing.
B: “Thank you! A …[gerbil/ancient Egyptian mummy/platinum plated X-Box/world peace]. Just what I wanted.”
A: “You’re welcome.”
B: “I got you something too…” they swap roles and the game continues.
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Listing
This is the most basic form of turn-taking, good for establishing routines with reception age children.
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A: Let’s start with animals. The game is to list as many as we can, taking it in turns.
A: Dog
B: Cat
A: Cow
B: Tiger
A: Dinosaur
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You can give out new categories – names, feelings, words to do with Christmas. The content doesn’t matter, it’s all about focused, intense practice of the basic skill of attentive turn-taking.
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Memory Christmas 
A: I wish you a merry Christmas with an enormous turkey.
B: I wish you a merry Christmas with an enormous turkey and an epic snowball fight.
A: I wish you a merry Christmas with an enormous turkey, an epic snowball fight and cosiness.
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The game continues with as many things as the partners can remember. When you model it, include some activities and concepts so that it isn’t just a list of things to eat. The game is a variation on, “I went shopping and I bought…” but that can be rather interminable if done as a whole group. You can theme the game according to the session, for example, “I’m going exploring and I’m going to pack…” or to warm-up for tackling bigger ideas, such as, “I’m going to have a good life and I’m going to need…”
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Storyball
Intro: In my hand I have a storyball. I’m going to start telling a story, and then I’m going to pass the storyball to my partner, and she’ll carry on. Then it comes back to me, and so on.
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Have this set of “story spine” prompts on display to help everyone.
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Once upon a time…
And every day…
But then one day…
And because of that…
And because of that…
And because of that…
Until finally…
And ever since then…
:
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A: Once upon a time there was a shark.
B: And every day the shark would swim around the reef, looking for fish to munch.
A: But then one day, he found all the fish had gone.
A: And because of that, he went to see what had happened.
B: And because of that, he found a huge fishing trawler with a great net dragging behind it, full of fish.
A: And because of that, he chomped and chewed on the net.
B: Until finally he bit a big hole in it and all the fish escaped.
A: And ever since then he has been a hero to all fish. Except for the ones he eats.
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Let them know they don’t have to stick strictly to the story spine, although it does capture how most stories work underneath.
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Best wishes,
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Jason
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PS. While researching the story, I found this unusual Freedom of Information Request to the BBC on the subject of Christmas Angels. We’ll be back in January with “The Philosophy of Spies”, also the topic of January’s online Philosophy Wranglers sessions. Merry Christmas/Happy New Year!
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Christmas Fairy Tale
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It had been a quiet start to Christmas. The living room, which had sometimes been a bus, or a train, or a pirate galleon when the boys were younger, was only ever a room now. Mostly, whoever was in the room just sat watching the TV on the wall opposite. From her position, fixed on top of the tree, Florabelle could never see the screen, only the people watching it. Their faces moved sometimes, but mostly, they were still. After the long months in the attic, keeping one another entertained with word games, jokes and memories of Christmases past, the decorations had been hoping to have more to talk about.
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 “Haven’t Michael and Alfie grown?” said Florabelle.
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“That’s what children do. What did you expect?” barked Toy Soldier from the branch beneath her.
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“How are the presents looking, Monkey?” asked Snowman. When it came to hang him up, the boys had lost interest. So, he was stuck facing the centre of the tree, desperate for news.
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Monkey, hanging beneath the lowest branch, said, “Not as many as last year. No big boxes. Michael and Alfie have got one each that looks exactly the same.”r
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“I was a present, once,” said Florabelle.
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“We all know that,” said the Other Angel, who had been demoted to a lower branch when Michael and Alfie’s great-grandmother had given Florabelle to them. Florabelle knew that she could be a bit of a bore about the old days, but there had been so much more life to Christmas. People had sung songs, played party games. It was all so much more – Christmassy.
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In the morning, the decorations watched with excitement as the presents were opened. After the bags of chocolate money, which the family always opened first, after the customary show of pretending they couldn’t guess what they were, the twins opened their small boxes. They were both very pleased – these were “the best presents”.
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It was hard to see what the best presents were at first, but it was soon obvious. Either side of dinner, up to the call to the table, from the second they could get down, they were glued to them. Even the TV was ignored. At one time, their mum and dad, uncle and grandmother were all there at the same time, each looking at their own little screen while the TV played in the background.
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Florabelle and the other decorations could only hope that by next year, Michael and Alfie would be bored of screens and that there would be more to watch, so that they would have more to talk about during the long months in the attic.

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