P4C Stimulus: Memories and Photographs

This week, a stimulus and some questions about memory, knowledge and truth, approached through the familiar notions of early childhood memories and photographs.

Warm up questions in pairs

  • What is your earliest happy memory?
  • What is the earliest picture of you that you can remember being taken?


There’s an audio stimulus, which you can download here:

Isn’t it funny how nobody ever calls himself “a little boy”, because however little you are, you are the biggest boy or girl you have been so far, so it’s only ever an older child or adult calling someone younger “a little boy”. Anyway, one of my earliest memories of when I was a little boy is a sad one. My great-grandmother used to live with us. I remember coming back home from school and being told that she’d died. I remember not believing it, and going from one room in the house to another to see where she was hiding, and then out into the garden and into our conservatory where she sometimes liked to sit. When she wasn’t there either, I realised that it was true, and my mum made me a cup of tea with a teaspoon of brandy in it, for the shock.

It’s a sad memory, but not too sad, because it turns out it isn’t true. We didn’t have a conservatory at that time, so there’s no way I could have gone looking for her there. And my mother wouldn’t have given me a teaspoon of brandy when I was four, however shocked I was. But even though I know it’s not true, it still feels as though I have a memory of it.

In the opposite way, there is a family photo with me in it from the same time, wearing a hideous seventies jumper, surrounded by my brothers and sister. I can’t remember the photo being taken at all: looking at me in it is like looking at a photo of someone else, only I know it’s me. Then there are other times where I have both a memory and a photograph, or where I think I have a real memory but no photograph to prove it, or things that I can only remember when I see a photograph that reminds me.

These days, people take photos more often than ever before. A lot of those are photographs of themselves, taking photographs of themselves. If you look at a selfie, and it brings up a memory, is it a memory of taking a selfie? I don’t take many selfies myself. I sometimes take otheries, photos of other people, but to be honest I tend to prefer taking nobody-at-all-ies, photos of places without people in them, because I think I will remember the people but forget the places.

I think it’s interesting how what we remember, what we photograph, what we know and what is true all fit together. So I’ve got some questions for you, which I’ve given your teacher, and perhaps you’ll think of some other questions of your own. Enjoy.

Concept Connections: Knowledge, Truth and Memory

Thinking about the sorts of moments people try to capture in a photograph – of being in a special place at a special time, perhaps with a special group of people – what are the differences and connections between:

1. You know that you were there

2. You remember that you were there

3. You remember being there

4. You remember what it was like to be there

5. You have a photograph of you there

6. It is true that you were there

7. You know it is true that you were there

For example, if 5 is true, then which of the others is true?

Further Questions

Is it better to have a memory of a moment, but no photograph, or a photograph of a moment, but no memory of it?

When is a memory more true than a photograph? When is a photograph more true than a memory?

If someone tells you about something you did before you were old enough to remember, and you tell someone else about it, is it your memory?

Best wishes,


P.S. Here’s some of the feedback from some of our start-of-year INSETs. We are taking bookings now for January. Of course, the ultimate aim of any INSET is to impact on the children’s learning and everyday experience of school, but the word that kept coming back over and over again in the feedback was “buzz”. So if you want to get your children talking and thinking more deeply through a session that will also be a buzz for staff in the middle of winter, get in touch and tell us about your school. Or you can read more by visiting www.thephilosophyman.com/inset

“I cannot describe the buzz and vibe from the staff, all down to you.” Headteacher, Manchester

“You really did create a huge buzz in school, which is a difficult shout on the first day back! You covered everything we wanted out of the training and gave us mountains of material to use in class.  I loved the fact you gave each phase some planning time to discuss ideas and plan sessions and then trial them out of colleagues.  You have definitely given us some inspiration and I am very excited to see what happens next.” EYFS Leader, Salford

“What an inspiring day! Our training was full of practical activities and games, with the just the right amount of discussion about teaching techniques interspersed. The questions raised interested everyone and there was a real buzz in the room. Some of us have already taught some P4C using our newly learnt methods and have found the children are taking to it just as we did! Thank you.” Year 5 Teacher, London

“It is us who would like to thank you. It was such an inspirational INSET and the staff were truly excited. Several of us have run introductory sessions with the children and although it is early days the enthusiasm is palpable.” Director of Learning, Dulwich

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