First P4C Lesson
Golden lessons are lessons where teachers take a risk in their teaching. That is when they do something out of their comfort zone, something new in their teaching, to help them develop as professionals. I was first introduced to the concept of Golden Lessons by Will Ord, founder of Thinking Education, during an inspiring Inset day. He talked about how golden lessons encourage more risk-taking amongst staff and help them explore their practice.
The aim of my first golden lesson was to try a P4C session, to see how the children in my class responded to it and also to see if and how I could incorporate this style of enquiry into my teaching, in a meaningful way. The session started by introducing the children to the concept of philosophy. Not all enquiry sessions need to start off this way, or labelled ‘philosophy’, but in my case I used it as a reminder and a referral to one of our history lessons “Great Thinkers”, as we had just finished covering the topic of Ancient Greece; the children were familiar with the concept of philosophy, in theory. It was now time to put it into practice!
Firstly, the desks were moved to the side and space was cleared to form a circle with our chairs. We all took a seat, including myself, which surprised the children in a pleasant way. This step is vital to foster the sense of a community and it also makes the facilitator equal to the rest of the group. The photo stimulus I chose to start the session, can be seen below.
Next, some thinking time was given to the children to come up with some questions, which could be good for discussion. The questions the children posed centered on the picture and what they saw. Here are some of the questions which arose:
- Why is the boy pushing the man?
- Why are they wearing those clothes?
- Why are they naked?
- Why are they fighting?
- Does size matter when winning?
The questions that were posed, were written on the board and their interest behind them was voiced by the children. We continued by voting on which question we wanted to focus on for this session.
Before the discussion began, it was pointed out that each person’s opinions and thought had to be listened to respectfully by the others, whether they agreed or not. Any arguments or different opinions could be voiced in a respectful manner, taking consideration of the other person’s feelings. Every person’s opinion was to be valued equally and that the input given should build on others in some form or way. A tin can was used, to keep the discussion running smoothly. Only the person holding the tin, had permission to speak, including the facilitator. This helped the children stay focused on the speaker.
The discussion took off to a slow start, I felt as if the children were at a loss as to what to do and what to say and were only focusing on what they could see. After a while it started to take on a more interesting turn, and escalated to a very interesting interaction of thoughts and ideas, when one child saw the bigger man as fear and that the younger boy as trying to overcome it. Some points and thoughts that were raised consisted of: not being afraid to overcome obstacles, no matter how big they are; to try and stick up for yourself when there is someone bullying you; never be afraid to try; a winner might be someone who is weak, but is cleverer; how not giving up is important and still trying even if the odds are against you. All these were thoughts shared amongst the children and I was very impressed by how the discussion developed.
This lesson was an insightful experience and to be honest exceeded all of my expectations. I was amazed by the children’s thought process, respectfulness and plethora of ideas. The children loved the freedom and sense of community, as well as the acceptance of different ideas and thoughts. This is something I wish to incorporate into my future teaching on a regular basis. Emphasis on testing and curriculum deliverance are restraints on the time allowance for such sessions, but I wish to be able to somehow integrate it a bit more into my teaching. I feel that my role as a facilitator has room for improvement. I found it challenging not to express my own opinions or gear the discussion to where I thought it should go. The way I found around that was to summarise what had been voiced and then pose a question on that – it wasn’t easy. Luckily, this helpful booklet I found online, will help with future sessions.
Overall, this golden lesson made me realise how ‘safe’ my teaching has become over the years and how important it is to take a risk and try something new. If risk-taking and putting enquiry in the hearts of our education system is key, then what better way to start than with ourselves as educators, to encouraging open-mindedness and room for change.
Till next time…
Related article: An introduction to P4C