An introduction to Philosophy for Children – P4C

Being  introduced to P4C (Philosophy for children) an educational movement that aims to teach reasoning and argumentative skills to children from an early age made me want to look into it further, hoping to implement it into my teaching.

Research shows that Philosophy for Children (P4C) is the ideal tool to stimulate thinking skills and the English National Curriculum is beginning to recognise the importance of thinking as a basis for children’s learning. Although the noted developmental psychologist Jean Piaget believed that children were not capable of critical thinking until age 11 or 12, the experience of many philosophers and teachers with younger children gives reason to believe that children benefit from philosophical inquiry even in early years.

The pedagogy of philosophy for children is diverse. However, many practitioners including those working in the tradition of Matthew Lipman and the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children emphasize the use of a community of inquiry method, that has roots in the work of philosopher John Dewey. The term “inquiry” is preferred to “lesson” because the emphasis is on the group inquiring together into questions with the teacher as a facilitator rather than the authoritative source of information.

In a typical inquiry, a group would be presented with a thought-provoking stimulus such as a text, image, picture book, or video clip. Some time may be spent identifying the ideas raised by the stimulus, and then participants frame their own philosophical questions in response to the stimulus and vote for the one they wish to explore. The ensuing discussion usually takes place in a circle, with the facilitator intervening, only when necessary, to push thinking to a deeper level, yet aspiring to allow the discussion to follow the emerging interests of the group. There are no right or wrong answers and children are allowed to unfold their thoughts whilst listening to one another.

This is a short ‘oldie but goldie’ video to watch, showing P4C in action, by James Nottingham 🙂


As you can see from the short video aboveP4C improves children’s critical, creative and rigorous thinking. It helps to develop higher order thinking skills, improve communication skills and helps children learn to co-operate with others. Children learn to reflect before speaking so that they are accurate in what they really want to say. All this has huge benefits in all areas of the curriculum. – (

So now that we have some of the theory, a question which formed in my mind was how can this impressive teaching method be put into practice and be used effectively in a classroom with direct correlation to the lesson we want to teach? After some thought an whilst I was doing something rather random in my classroom such as cutting a piece of card, an idea suddenly popped to mind! Why not take it straight back to its roots! I mean what better way to introduce P4C, than in an Ancient Greek history lesson? Since philosophy was one of the greatest movements of Ancient Greek civilization, P4C comes to link beautifully as an introduction to a lesson or even a whole session itself. I think we might be on to something there! Don’t you?

More to come on Ancient Greek philosophers and P4C lesson ideas…stay posted!

Feel free to post any comments on P4C lessons or ideas that have worked for you!

Till next time…

Peppi Orfanogianni

Image downloaded from – a great site worth looking at for more P4C information. 

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