Monday, 23 March 2015

Philosophy and Prephilosophy with preschoolers

After a long time of the philosophy sessions being a great place to share ideas and listen to the children we have hit a phase in the children's development where several of them are testing the listening part by working on maximum disturbance when other children are talking...

Finding a balance is tricky...

Do we insist that they listen? Or do we completely change what we are doing? Afterall I am learning at the same time... not only about doing philosophy with preschoolers, but also about the ever changing needs of my group as they develop and discover out how the world works...

I find myself once again wracking my brain to try and find the optimal way to hold a dialogue with the children in a group situation. One to one is never a problem... but as soon as some of the children find themselves having to give space to the ideas of others it has just become very hard...

We have talked about leaving the structured philosophical dialogues in favour of pre-philosophy activities... that maybe we are in the learning spiral where it feels like we have gone backwards when really it is just a part of the developmental progress. So instead of fighting it... I am going to run with it... to meet this spiral where it is with the activities that they need right now, rather than what I know they have been capable of in the last 18 months... and I also know is still within them... they just need something else from me right now...

sometimes the chairs ready for philosophy became a very different game...

I have to admit it does feel frustrating - I know that learning is not linear and a steady upwards achievement... I know that it is forever spiralling... but all the same... it felt like we were coming so far with our philosophical dialogues -
- and we can still if we were to divide the group into those who want to listen and those who don't want to listen - but where is the community of learners there? I mean the whole point surely is to allow the children to push boundaries and rediscover them, to find out what is socially acceptable and what is not... how being listened to makes them feel and how not being listened to them makes them feel... and how they can apply all these experiences to their own learning and development.

I could just let those children who don't want to listen go off and do their own thing so that the listeners can get on with delving into their ideas together... but I feel that is not going to offer the best learning. These children have had a few weeks break from these discussions... but they have also then shown total disinterest in any community activity. So I am not meeting a need they have about being a community of learners... as we have MOST of our day as free play where the children can play in groups, individually, in pairs etc as they choose (with support from us teachers) - I then think that a 30 minute session of shared learning each day is not too much for these 4-6 year olds - when they have shown that they are capable of more than this in the past.

So it is to re-invent the philosophy sessions
If you are interested in reading more about how the sessions have been going, then take the time to look at the following links...

  • mixing philosophy with art 
  • Reflecting on the week - this is where we first saw resistence to being in a dialogue - the children so much wanted to make all the decisions, but had no actual interest in taking the time to make and plan... they just wanted to go to the funfair - and so adults were boring in their decision-making.
  • Importance of the spken language - a post reflecting that philosophy with children is more than just the philosophical dialogue meeting... so really this supports the decision that having a philosophical meeting is not the most important part of encourging the children to think critically and creatively - together
  • Playing Fairies - this post shares how we have played with the ideas that came up in our philosophy sessions as a way to encourage particiaption and deepening of understanding, as we all communicate, express ideas and learn in different ways, so sitting in a circle is not always the best option.
  • Listening with eyes - some of our sessions have looked like this... an exercise of listening, and being a community of learners... feeling part of a group. And this is what I feel we will be returning to more and more... as well as other activities and short dialogues.
  • planned philosophy and spontaneous philosophy - this post shares how many of our ideas develop... that we experience something together with the children, or observe the children and then a philosophical develops from that... it also shows that some discussions come directly from the children... and have not been structured philosophical dialogues but rather have taken benefit from previous structured dialogues to enable everyone to participate and to be heard.
  • Day one of philosophy and Day two - thoughts and reflections on two days of learning about philosophy with children.
  • reflections on a design - this post is one of many connected to last year's project about designing a new square... and trying to find out how it would be good for everyone's needs and not just each child...
  • Two days of philosophy - another philosophy course and conference - and my reflections on my experience and learning.
  • Philosophical Questions - a post with our approach ot philosophical questions... of course this is some time ago... and I am feeling that I might like to have another go at writing a similar post again...
  • Philosophy and preschool - this is now quite an old post, but it is an important one in my process with the children and is incredibly valuable in allowing me see where we have come from and just how far we have travelled... maybe some of the problems we have today are similar to those in the beginning - and so reading I can see what worked... the talking rings have not been used for a long time, the were structure that was needed then, and then the children were self sufficient... but I think this is what they need help with again... a clarity in how a dialogue functions so everyone can have fun, and not at the expense of anyone...
  • Taking a vote on a philosophical question - here is a post about how the children have chosen which question we have explored deeper... this was not as successful as we would have hoped in the long run as we had a few children who could sulk an entire session if the question they opted for was not chosen. The idea has always been to try and make these philosophical dialogues fun, interesting and meaningful for all the children... and to be honest that has often been best when we as teachers have observed and listened to the children and then made the decision as to which question would interest them the most, or challenge them the most (but not too much of a challenge either)
  • International Fairy Tea Party has been a fabulous source of interesting questions and fun explorations... and this has woken the children's curiosity and passiona great deal... this September we will celebrate for the third time, and I am looking forward to how the will explore this magic world this year (already they are starting to ask questions as spring is starting to come and nature feels a little more fairy like magic)
  • Philosophy and Preschool - another post reflecting on study days learning about philosophy with children.
  • Raw thoughts... this is a reflection on a staff meeting we had talking about what is philosophy with children for us... I had been working then at Filosofiska for a month... so this is a VERY early post... (and just 4 months into my life as a blogger back then too)
So, as you see, my blog is not just a way of sharing what I do with you... it is also a documentation of what I do with the children... it is my learning journey... and going back and reading what I have done, and my thoughts and reflections about what I was doing then (and sometimes I add extra reflections a few months or a year later) I am able to learn more about what works, what doesn't work, the possibilities of retrying things now that the children are in a new place in their development...

So now... our plan is (morning are planned - afternoons are open) and here I only wirte down the mornings....
Mondays... indoor play until 9:30 and then outdoor play - I am thinking of adding an little song meeting in the transition there as part of re-enforcing a community in the group
Tuesdays... pre-philosophy - using more art and action in these sessions we will continue with listening as an area to explore and to practice - then outdoor play
Wednesday... small group work, based on the book the children have chosen to explore more. (Hansel and Gretel) The idea being to create with the children a whole new forest inspired play area in one of the rooms. Outdoor play
Thursday... small group work (slightly different groups) more work on the books in different ways (following the children... one group has already expressed an interest in writing their own version of the story - the children that will be starting school after summer






). Outdoor play
Friday... song meeting with the whole preschool and then outdoor play.

The idea is that the book/story project is also very linked to listening - and what we explore in the philosophy sessions will support their learning and exploration of the Hansel and Gretel ... and of course their play and explorations will guide us how to best challenge the children in philosophy in an appropriate manner.


feeling like those talking rings might just make a come-back...



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