One word that unlocks children’s voices

Do some of your children find it difficult to talk in class discussions? Often, children just don’t know what to say when put on the spot. For years, I’ve been using a word that can helps unlock a speech confident version of practically any child: “who”.

Below are five easy ways to embed this magic word into your P4C practice. 

Also, a quick announcement: we’ve just had a school postpone an INSET day from the start of September to mid-October, so unusually we have some availability in the very popular start-of-year slot. If you want to get your staff fired up and enthusiastic about the year, people usually say it’s either the best INSET they’ve ever had or is in the running – a lot of fun as well as very useful and thought-provoking. You can email

1. Ask “who” in a standalone question

Giving two or more options allows children to choose from existing answers, rather than feel put on the spot to come up with something completely original. 

  • If someone tells you a funny joke in a dream, who wrote it?
  • If a monkey steals your camera and takes a selfie, who owns the photo?
  • Who decides what is, and isn’t, art? 

In most instances, it may be obvious who the people are in the question but you might want to state the potential “whos” for younger or lower-ability children – e.g. for who decides what is art, it could the artist, the viewer, the art-dealer, etc… 

2. Who do you agree with from this dialogue or story?

Our philosophical dialogues are built around characters giving different points of view. In the attached one from our archive, four characters argue about whether its acceptable to make a comedy sketch about events from history.

Janey: We wouldn’t want people joking about today’s tragedies, so it’s not fair to joke about the past

Chris: Some things can be joked about, others not

Andy: if enough time passes, anything becomes fair game

Morgan: a kids television series about history is to entertain, and we should leave it at that

This can also be done in any story where there are two or more points of view, like Aesop’s fable The Donkey and its Shadow that we sent out a few weeks ago. 

3. Who do you agree with – Spot or Stripe?

A great way to use the power of “who” is to play a clip from our highly successful Spot and Stripe series – one-minute videos where two characters argue about a two sided question before inviting children to show who they agree with and why. 

Originally designed for EYFS, we expanded the collection to over 100 videos for every age. Play them now from our Youtube channel. If you’ve got a big screen in your classroom, encourage children to physically stand on the side of the room of Spot, or Stripe, to show who they side with. And don’t forget to let them change their mind!

4. Ali said this, Jo said that. Who do you agree with?

During classroom discussion, look for when two competing opinions arise. Summarise the two contrasting views (or even better, get a child to) and ask the next speaker who they agree with more.  

5. Who here believes…?

Rather than ask a question, put a statement into question and ask who believes it – therefore giving them a simple choice between yes or no (or the option to find a grey area). For example:

  • Who here believes that right and wrong are all a matter of opinion? 
  • Who here believes that it can be wrong to forgive someone?
  • Who here believes that all animals have a right to life?

Tip: Play The Philosophers’ Fruit Salad – put children in a circle and ask them to swap places if they believe the statement. Starting with them stood up prevents sloth from taking over and lowers the threshold of effort to swap. A good feature of this game is that players will often swap spontaneously after they hear reasons given by others.  

Best wishes, 


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