This week, a philosophical twist on a popular literacy activity. 

Also, there are still some tickets left for World Philosophy Day Live – our interactive online lesson this Thursday. The 9 a.m. slot is now full, but 3.45 p.m. (GMT) still has space. Click here to get your ticket.

My Life in Questions

Children are natural questioners. They’ve been asking questions their whole, short lives. And they’re not short of answers, either. 

Writing an autobiography is an old favourite in literacy lessons. So why not have a go at a philosophical version? Introducing “My Life in Questions“. 

Inspired by a history activity I saw last week, this resource provides engaging sentence starters to prompt them to recall the questions that have made them wonder, and to help them explain their thoughts. Download below. 

Download resource

It’s a great way to let them reflect on the questions that have given them pause and practise explaining their opinions. It’s also a helpful reminder that life is far from black and white – rather, it’s full of wonderful mystery and uncertainty. 

I’ve made it an editable document too, so you can adapt for your age group. It’s a celebration of wondrous questions, so they don’t all have to be philosophical. The existing prompts include:

  • When I was very young, I used to wonder…
  • As I’ve got older, I’ve become more certain about…
  • As I’ve got older, I’ve become less certain about…
  • A philosophical question I might never know the answer to is… 
  • A big question my friends and I can never agree on is…
  • A good question I’ve discussed in school is…
  • A question I’ve changed my mind on is…
  • Questions that might be important in the future are… 

…and I encourage you to edit and add your own!

Tips for teachers:

1. Give examples of where they will have found questions. Help them recollect what’s puzzled them by reminding them of the various places they can will have found questions: during conversations at home, when staring up at the clouds, or in their lessons with you! Brainstorm these places together and have them visible on the board. If they’re really struggling, you could recap on some of the questions you’ve done in class, but encourage them to think back and remember for themselves – this will bring the most meaningful ones to the fore. 

2. Model the process by reflecting on your own life in questions. For example, when I was very young I used to wonder…

  • Is there a man in the moon?
  • What’s at the end of space?
  • What’s it like to be a cat?

And in my school Religious Studies lessons, I encountered more questions:

  • If God knows what we’re going to pray for, is there a point in praying?
  • Can everything be explained by science?
  • Should charity always begin at home?

3. Use the activity in the way that suits your class best. It could be a standalone literacy exercise or you could use it to add some philosphical sauce to your existing “write your autobiography” lesson. It could be just one chapter within it. It’ll make a nice change to the usual narratives about annoying siblings and pets going missing. Whatever you do, it would certainly make a great display!

P4C on paper

I’m often asked how to “record” philosophy – to capture thoughts from everyone’s discussion on paper, or to help children use the “rough work” of discussion to help with extended writing.  

We’ve created lots of resources on this area over the years – find them all here:

www.thephilosophyman.com/p4conpaper

Sticky Question of the week

Sticky Questions is the easiest way for a school to do P4C every week in every class. Learn more here.

Best wishes,

Tom

PS: I’ve kept very few projects from my own schooldays, but I do still have my autobiography! It’s toe-curlingly embarrassing to read and has nothing remotely philosophical in it. But the choice of cover-art is a psychoanalyst’s dream!

PPS from Jason: It’s fascinating to learn about what matters at different stages of people’s lives – in Tom’s case, being on “register alert” at 14! There is definitely a P4C resource to be written about what’s important at different ages. Watch this space…

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