P4C Activities About Community

In another of our “back to school” issues, two ideas created with teachers during last week’s INSET at Rosemead Prep. School in London.

Community is a popular new academic-year topic for younger children and creating a good community of learners is important to every teacher. So why not dig into into the concept of community to improve everyone’s understanding of it? 

Plus, scroll down to embed year-round oracy across your school community for less than £1.50 per pupil.

Idea 1: The Communometer

Grab ten sheets of paper / mini-whiteboards / post-it notes and label each with a possible feature of a community. For the youngest, this could be big recognisable things like:

  • shops
  • houses
  • roads
  • nature
  • a place to play

If they’re struggling to understand the word “community”, swap it for “a place you could live”. Experiment with taking one of the cards away and asking “would it still be a place you could live now?”

For older children, you might go for more abstract ideas:

  • rules
  • everyone agreeing
  • a leader
  • sanctions
  • rewards
  • purpose
  • a motto

Ask learners to work in small groups, rank them in order of importance, then share and compare with others. For extra challenge, get them to sort the ideas into piles of “Necessary” and “Unnecessary” for a community. Does a community need rules, for example? 

If doing it as a whole class, ask “which of these could you take away and it still function as a community?”

Idea 2: A question of leadership

Can someone who behaves badly be a good leader? 

This was a question two Year 5 teachers wanted to ask their class as part of their upcoming topic on Henry VIII. But it could just as easily help learners think about the moral responsibilities of leaders in the school community – e.g. sports captains, school-council reps or prefects. The two teachers came up with an improvised dialogue to run with their teaching assistants, retold by me below. Use it, or be inspired to make your own!

A: Of course they can’t! A leader needs to lead by example. Behaving badly means a bad example.

B: But isn’t a good leader also a motivator? An inspirer? Behaving badly doesn’t affect their ability to do that.

A: I wouldn’t want to be inspired by them. What if I’m inspired to do bad things too?

B: OK, what about organising? Being of dubious character doesn’t stop you getting things done.

C: I’m done with all this talk of leaders. Power to the people! 

Following the ABABC pattern is an effective way to introduce two sides (plus a curveball) and let the children take a side and carry on the debate. Don’t forget to let them cross the aisle if they change their mind. There are so many questions in waiting here – what’s the purpose of a leader? Are leaders responsible for others’ behaviour? Do we need leaders?

Jason presented about this approach at this summer’s Sophia Conference for P4C’ers across Europe. Watch this space for a future bulletin on dialogues!

Weekly, year-round oracy across your school community for less than £1.50 per pupil

We know it’s September at Philosophy Man Towers because of the flurry of re-orders for Sticky Questions: arguably the easiest way to embed year-round, whole-school oracy for a fraction of the cost of other more arduous programmes.

“What a success Sticky Questions has been this year across our Primary School! Thank you for such an easy, creative way to promote thinking in our students! I’d like to order more sets of Sticky Questions for our 2024 school year.” Katrina Riley, Deputy Head of Primary School.

How it works:

  1. Pupils go home with a Sticky Question, written for their year group, on their jumper
  2. Rich, meaningful talk at home without a screen in sight 
  3. They bring their ideas back to class for further juicy discussion

And it’s even easier to start. Just click below to find a pack that suits your school, and place your order. No need for a school debit card – we’ll send you an invoice. 

Plus you get 1-hour online training for all staff included in the price. Find a better value whole-school oracy programme and we’ll eat our hats. Don’t believe us? See its impact at Stichivall Primary:

Best wishes,

Tom and Jason

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