This week, a practical resource for teachers that revamps one of the most important ideas we’ve ever shared. 

The Classroom Cheat-sheet

The more we do P4C with children across the country, the more we value eight simple questions:

Can you say more? …allows them to elaborate if their initial point is short or stops abruptly. 

Can you say why? …invites them to justify their opinion by providing reasons. 

Can you give us an example? …can help provide some focus if their point is abstract or hard to follow. 

How do you mean? …lets them rephrase or reframe their point, to to make it clearer.

So… (repeat the main question)? …anchors them back to the question if they’ve gone off on a tangent.

Why is that important? ...helps them to explain the relevance of their point in relation to the question.

How could you disagree with yourself? …gets them to negate what they’ve just said and think against themselves. 

What would make you change your mind? …encourages them to consider circumstances that would flip their thinking and draws out the “what ifs…” and “only ifs…”.

We first sent these out in 2017 to help improve paired-talk. The first five were the originals and we’ve added the latter three over the years. We introduced the last one at a Heads’ conference on Friday! 

Now, we’ve made them into an A6 aide-memoire/cheat-sheet for the classroom – download it below. 

It is hard to overstate the importance of these questions.  Their contentless nature means that, just like a good coach or counsellor, you listen and elicit but don’t “stick your oar in.”

Having it in front of you also averts your gaze from the children. They’re less likely to look for you for validation, plus they’ll be intrigued as to what’s on your mysterious piece of paper. As your P4C sessions progress, get the children asking them of each other. Facilitating a group using these cheat sheets is a good role for any dominant speakers whose listening needs to catch up, or use in pairs to get a great buzz of paired talk.

As always, a hat-tip to Peter Worley of The Philosophy Foundation for drawing our attention to the particular power of contentless questions.

Best wishes,

Tom and Jason

PS: We’re getting lots of enquiries about INSET for this year, including from schools joining together for a whole day’s training for as little as £500+VAT per school. If you’re interested in what we can offer, just hit reply to arrange a quick call. 

Sticky Question of the week:

P4C for every class, every week – learn more about Sticky Questions

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