My aim as part of any in-setting consultancy is to work with staff over a minimum of two days so they can see how philosophy which is happening in the classroom can be extended and used. Ideally, as I explain to staff, we would work over at least a week to explore ideas and extend thinking through the creation of role play areas, activities and continued curriculum coverage.
This is the way I have worked in the EYFS for many years. P4C with younger children is much more about helping staff see the links to excellent Early Years practice, where support is ongoing, child-centred and carefully listened to.
Philosophy in the early years will not work as effectively in short once a week sessions but needs to be a continuous process of listening to and “wondering” with young childrens’ stories, words and actions to gain deeper understanding of the questions and ideas based on philosophical concepts and themes.
I start with observations and discussion with staff on current interests of their children. I then observe the children in play, interacting where appropriate. The process evolves in accordance within a normal EYFS timetable. We do not change any aspect of the timetables as I aim to show that this happens without the need for one-off P4C sessions. (this does not mean that this approach is abandoned but rather that the two approaches work together to form a more cohesive and realistic way of working philosophically with very young children)
In addition, we also discuss ways to continue making philosophy viable in the longer term.
My suggestions and recommendations include the following.
How can we make p4c and Philosophy by Children more visible in the classroom?
How do we collect and record opportunities for philosophical play and dialogue and how do we recognise and build in the next steps in terms of philosophical play?
- By watching children’s play on a more frequent basis, build the collecting of philosophically interesting opportunities and ideas into current observations.
- Freeing up members of staff to follow children as they “story”
- To move with children rather than allow them to come to you
- To allow children opportunities to develop sophisticated play and storying in their mother tongue if they are more fluent in that than English.
- What do we do with the stories? When? How do we make links between their stories and the curriculum? Read and share the stories at storytimes and other times where groups gather with keyworkers etc.
- Source other picture books that might extend the ideas being explored (see separate book list)
- Send the children’s stories home and ask parents to share (and possibly extend) with their children.
How to make it visible…
- Question board every day or once a week using ideas from play and the stories played.
- Create a philosophy working wall Ongoing story development board with updates. eg where story started, philosophical thoughts and questions raised, next steps for thinking , photos of play with child’s quotes. What philosophical theme is this covering? What other thinking is emerging from this?
- Small group into large group storying- encouraging others to engage with the ideas through extended play opportunities.
- Introduce the concept word cards and display them with children’s illustrations