“The Lost Thing” and Things About “Lost”

The concepts of belonging and being lost are common in children’s stories. If you’re a primary teacher, think about your classroom bookshelf – there is probably at least one book about something separated from where it belongs – Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, for example. Or here’s a poem (with lost line breaks!) from Jason using “lost” figures of speech.


Lose your temper lose the thread lose your mind lose your head it’s a lost cause it’s your loss you’re a loser no love lost lost in translation losing sleep lost in the mists of time lost sheep losing battle losing ground yet don’t lose it lost and found win some lose some lost your looks lose yourself inside a book


Exploring ‘Lost’ as a concept

Books about something, or someone, being lost create the opportunity for fruitful philosophical enquiry. Use the story as a stimulus and consider starting things off with a simple question, for example:

What does it mean to be lost?
Do you have to come from somewhere, to be lost?
Can you be lost in somewhere you belong?

As ‘being lost’ can apply to so many things, you can also pose questions that openly invite pupils to give examples:

Are there some things that can never get lost?
Are there some things that do not belong anywhere?

And of course, there is the sense of lost which invokes grief – losing somebody, rather than being lost yourself. Perhaps that sensitive issue is for another enquiry, or perhaps that sense is so intertwined with “being lost” that they can helpfully be thought of together if it arises.


Beginning with a question of your own is likely to hook their engagement, and spark an immediate flow of ideas. You can then step back and encourage the class to comment on something that has already been said – do they agree or disagree? Holding a ‘referendum’ on an idea effectively turns it into a new question and so helps the enquiry grow organically.


Example of classroom use

During a residency earlier this week, Tom had the pleasure of watching Year 4 Teacher Alice Tubbs use Shaun Tan’s picturebook “The Lost Thing” as a stimulus earlier this week. A story of a boy who comes across a bizarre creature and endeavours to find out where it belongs, it deserves its place in any classroom, and has also been turned into an Oscar-winning short film.


Alice began with How do we know the thing is lost? to encourage pupils to use evidence from the story. Next, when the pupils were asked Is it possible to be ‘just plain lost’? they seemed ready to use wider evidence and examples to support their ideas, leading to rich discussion about whether you can really be lost if you belong somewhere.


World Philosophy Day – Thursday 16th November

It’s World Philosophy Day next Thursday, so we’ll be sending a special themed issue on Tuesday to provide a ready-made resource for use across the school. Watch this space.


Best wishes,

Tom and Jason


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