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Philosophy for Children P4C . Do you have a pet?. The following dialogue comes from a conversation that took place between a 6-year old girl, called Charlotte, and her teacher. Teacher: ‘Do you have a pet?’. Charlotte:

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Do you have a pet
Do you have a pet?

  • The following dialogue comes from a conversation that took place between a 6-year old girl, called Charlotte, and her teacher.


‘Do you have a pet?’


‘Yes.  I have a cat and a guinea pig.  And a goldfish.  The cat is called Zephyr and the guinea pig is called Gip.’


‘Do you like them?’


‘Of course.  Everyone likes their pets.’


‘How would you feel if something awful happened to one of your pets?’


‘Really sad.  I had a rabbit once, but a dog got in and ate it.  I cried.’


‘Have you heard of Africa?’


‘It’s a long way away.  They have jungles there, and wild animals.’


‘There are people there as well.  Millions of them.’


‘I know.’


‘Would you care if someone in Africa were hit by a bus?’


‘Not much.  It probably happens all the time.’


‘Would you rather someone you didn’t know in Africa was hit by a bus, or your goldfish died?’


‘I’d rather someone was hit by a bus.’


‘How about 10 people killed in a bus crash?’


‘I still don’t want my fish to die.’


‘What if the choice is between your goldfish and a thousand people killed in an earthquake?  What if you were magic, and had to choose?’


‘Maybe the people are more important.’


‘What if its between the people and Zephyr?’ 


‘No way.  I love Zephyr.’


‘What if its either ten people in Australia killed in a bushfire or Zephyr hit by a car?’


‘People I don’t know?’


‘Yes.  You don’t know any of them.’


‘Then I’d pick Zephyr not to be hit by a car.’


‘What if its between Zephyr and grandma?’


‘Um.  Grandma’s very old.  She might die anyway.’


‘What if its either grandma dies in 6 months before she would have, or Zephyr is hit by a car?’


‘Are you going to tell grandma what I said?’


‘I don’t know.  Probably not.’


‘I think grandma is more important’

My aim is to
My aim is to

Give an overview P4C:

  • What it is and how it has developed

  • Why we should be teaching philosophy in schools

  • An example of how to get a lesson started

  • Ways to fit it into the curriculum.


Developed in US by Professor Matthew Lipman and now used in over 30 countries

Improves oracy and communication skills

Develops self-esteem and emotional literacy

Improves children’s mathematics and reading skills

What is p4c
What is P4C

Develops range of thinking skills:

Information-processing skills

  • to sort, classify, compare and contrast


  • Ability to give reasons for opinions, to draw inferences and make deductions, to use precise language to explain what they think and to make judgements and decisions informed by reasons or evidence


  • to ask relevant questions, to pose and define problems

Creative thinking skills- to generate and extend ideas, to apply imaginationEvaluation skills- to develop criteria for judging their own and others’ work or idea

National curriculum
National Curriculum

NC claims that RE

‘enables pupils to consider and respond to a range of important questions related to their own spiritual development, the development of values and attitudes and fundamental questions concerning the meaning and purpose of life.’


  • Philosophy is greater than ‘thinking skills’ because it allows children to think about and discuss the profound.

  • It helps us meet the second aim from the NC values, namely, to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and, in particular, develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong. It should develop knowledge, understanding and appreciation of their own and different beliefs and cultures and how these influence individual and societies.


  • ‘In .. philosophy sessions, pupils respond readily with comments and probing questions… The emphasis placed on pupils’ thinking and speaking for themselves at all times, but particularly through philosophy sessions, enables them to make good progress in speaking and listening.’ (Tuckswood First School, February 1998)


  • ‘The inclusion of philosophy in the curriculum directly impacts on the development of pupils’ moral and social development as well as enhancing their capacity to become independent learners. It also contributes to the development of pupil’s positive attitudes to themselves and others.’ Wapping First School, March 1997

How to use philosophy
How to use philosophy

Starting points can be:

  • A story

  • A picture

  • Music

  • An artefact

  • A poem

  • In fact anything that can provoke questions


  • To have a discussion that clarifies and explore complex issues that matter to children.

  • The process is not just opinion-swapping. Children are encouraged to give reasons, examples and consideration to what others are saying to them. Philosophy is ‘about thinking carefully in a self-correcting way’.

The session
The session

  • Read story to class or introduce artefact, picture etc.

  • Allow a minute or two for the children to quietly reflect on what they have seen/heard

  • Invite children to come up with a question they feel would be interesting and to discuss with a partner.

  • Share questions with group. Group chooses one question to put forward.

  • Write questions down on whiteboard

  • Go back over questions and vote for which question to answer – if time allow children to share ideas with class.

  • Children vote as many times as they like. If two questions are same – have second vote. (or one vote only, or limit to three etc)

  • When question determined, invite person who came up with the question to try and answer it or discuss it first.

  • When you have the question you can begin your enquiry

Teacher s role
Teacher’s role

  • Write down the children’s questions – write the question down as said or written, do not change the language.

  • Do not answer the question.

  • Do not evaluate the question.

  • Gather all the questions.

  • Vote to answer one question only.

Teacher s role 2
Teacher’s role 2

The teacher aims to allow children the space and support to develop their ideas by enabling children to:

  • Clarify what they have said

  • Give reasons for what they have said.

  • Testing what was said.

  • Tease out implication of what was said.

  • Give examples.

  • Allow opportunities for counter-arguments.

Teacher s role 3
Teacher’s Role 3

  • Children to be encouraged to start contributions by saying:

    ‘ I agree/disagree with Sarah that….’

    This ensures that children are listening to conversation, prevents a series of monologues, encourages courtesy in dealing with others’ views, shows that we can disagree but remain respectful.

Questions for the teacher
Questions for the teacher

Listening to the child

Can you tell me what you mean?

Could you put this another way?

Questions for the teacher1
Questions for the teacher

Expanding on what the child has said.

  • Why/why not?

  • How do you know that?

  • As you assuming that?

  • If you say……does it follow that?


As part of the larger whole.

  • Can you give examples.

  • Can we apply this to all situations.

  • Can you think of other reasons why this might be true?

Although I can show how to set up a lesson I cannot show how to facilitate the actual discussion.

P4C conferences arranged by County.

P4c starting points
P4C starting points to facilitate the actual discussion.

The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

Picasso’s ‘Guernica’

Anthony Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’.