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P4C Activity: Question Tennis

This week, a challenging activity to encourage learners to question each other.
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Question Tennis
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We’re not claiming to have invented this one. The playful game of answering a question with a question has been a staple of family car journeys for a long time. The basic premise is beautifully simple:
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  1. Each player must respond to a question with a question
  2. No statements

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As well as being an excellent exercise in careful listening, playing the game requires learners to inquire and problematise, encourages them to celebrate mystery, and develop their sceptical side. Questioning in the classroom is notoriously dominated by teachers, and this encourages students to think independently and become more ready to question each other rather than continually announcing their own opinion.
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Question Tennis requires practically no preparation, bar a quick modelling. One way to do this would be to show an excerpt from our TedX Talk, which is composed entirely of questions:
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We did our best to sound spontaneous, but our talk is of course scripted, to advocate the power of those questions Google can’t kill, and in particular, arguing for the benefits of embedding them in school curriculum. When your students play it, you’ll notice their games developing organically in different directions. It might be useful to ask them afterwards to recall the particularly juicy philosophical questions they asked. Put a number to a vote, and invite responses when a ”winning’ question is chosen.
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If you like what we’re saying (or asking!) please do share the video: on social media, to colleagues, or to support your own P4C advocacy with SLT!
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Increasing the challenge
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We were initially inspired by a scene from the 1990 film Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, in which the title characters engage in game of questions on a physical court. It takes an academic approach to the game and so serves as an excellent example of how tighter rules can up the challenge:
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Once your students have mastered the basics of the game, you can introduce further rubric, such as no hesitation, rhetoric, or non-sequiturs.
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Best wishes,
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Tom and Jason
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PS: In addition to our Ted Talk duties, we deliver events throughout the year, from INSET days to teaching alliance keynotes – though usually as ourselves, rather than Spot and Stripe! If your school, alliance or cluster have a training event on the horizon and you’d like to discuss how we could help, just press reply to ask any question (we’ll give actual answers, promise!).

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