P4C for Writing Autobiographies

In Westlands Primary School today, Year 4 were doing autobiography, so we did a Philosopher’s Cocktail Party to explore various aspects of “What makes you you?” and after that, a whole lot of options for how to get more P4C happening in your school from September.

Philosopher’s Cocktail Party

Stand up, find a partner, and then for each new question/focus for talk find a new partner. If you end up in a three, that’s fine too. The “and why” at the end of each suggestion is really important – it’s what goes beyond just listing things to giving reasons, and also connects to your values.

Five people who are important to you (and why)
A good memory (and why)
A place (other than where you live) that is important to you (and why).
Something that matters to you – could be a possession, could be an idea. (and why)
An interest where you can remember what/who got you into it.
Something that makes you/made you angry (and why)
(Into 4s) something positive about you that makes you different.
(Still in 4s) What makes you you? (or, playfully, “What do you think makes you the you you are?” (and why?)

Resist the urge to hear back from pairs/groups every time. As you’ll  probably remember from an INSET you’d like to forget, very often, hearing back from the groups is where the thinking goes to die. But with the final 4s question, do hear back in the form of “boiling it down” to one word – ask them to take some of their thoughts and give the essence of it in one word. 

Some of these might be very particular things like, “singing”, “football” in which case you ask them to boil those words down to one word – such as “interests”. Listen out for the ideas being offered up and see what new questions emerge.

In this class, in “What makes you you?” someone said, “me”. Which led us to an interesting conversation about how much you made you, and how much you were made by others. (One end of the room became 100% you make you, the other end 100% made by others, with other positions in between). 

Big Questions + Quickfire Conversations

To generalize from this session, it can be good to have one big question in mind and then to invite reflection on lots of aspects of it in quickfire conversations. You can even start with the big question, put the aspect questions in the middle, and then come back to the big question at the end.

Where do you want philosophy to go at your school next year?

The end of term is accelerating towards us all, but if you take five minutes to think about what your hopes are for philosophy for next year, what jumps out:

Getting every class doing something every week? – Take a look at Sticky Questions

Want whole staff training in P4C, or a refresher? – See what teachers have to say about our training 

Already familiar with P4C, but want more ideas for sessions? – Explore the Primary Curriculum Pack

Want to use P4C to enrich the curriculum for a year group or a keen group of students? – Check out our pupil events.

Already had some P4C training, but want to equip teachers with the skills to embed philosophy in their curriculum? – Look up our Curriculum Clinics

International school? – Jason particularly loves you from October to March when the fen winds make narrowboat living in Cambridge less of a joy, but talk to us now about engaging with you pupils, teachers and parents at any time of year!

Know you want to get more P4C happening at your school, but not sure how? – just reply to this email and we’ll get in touch to arrange a zoom call or phone call.

Best wishes,

Jason & Tom

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