Monthly Archives: November 2015

Blending learning experiences between primary and secondary

Good schools become great through collaboration.  When you have in house professional development in schools and you allow your teachers to learn from each other, the sense of community becomes really strong.

We all have unique skill sets and can all learn from each other.  Even when you are presenting a workshop, the learning you receive through sharing your ideas with your colleagues can be even more rewarding for you, than for those who participated in your workshop.

Today, I presented a workshop on stimulating inquiry with a philosophical framework.  The workshop was for both primary and secondary teachers, which was a bit daunting at first, being a Grade 2 teacher.  But philosophy is about open mindedness, inquiry and being genuinely intrigued by the world and the people in it.  All of the teachers who attended my workshop were like this.  Genuinely intrigued by our students, their thinking and how it progresses as they grow in age.

Blending learning experiences between primary and secondary is incredibly powerful.  Secondary teachers were surprised by the depth of the questions and thinking coming out from a Grade 2 classroom and equally learning more about the MYP and DP helps primary teachers to see where we need to help our students to go and to think about what is really important.

We should never underestimate the thinking of our students, but equally we shouldn’t underestimate the thinking of our colleagues, whether we are primary, secondary, specialists or admin, we all have something to learn.


Yes, Grade 2 are capable of asking deep philosophical questions. Here is how!

#1 We watched this stimulus 


The adventures of a cardboard box

#2  I asked the students to think beyond the events and to find the big ideas within it.

This is what they identified:

  • To be creative (Haziq)
  • Thinking outside of the box (Finn) Thinking (Seoyun) Inquiring (Sahng)
  • Imagination (Haziq) Risk-taking (JiHun)
  • Friendship (samantha)
  • Kindness (Micah) Caring (Aleksia)
  • Love (Elise)
  • Sad experiences (Zahra) Loss (William)

#3 Then everyone used the big ideas and wrote their own

open ended, debatable and conceptual question

on a post it note.  Here are a selection of our ideas:

#4 As a group (3 or 4) students voted on which question they are most interested in discussing.  These were the top 5 questions:

Can people love toys more than people?

Is kindness for everyone?

Is family more important than friendship?

Can you have a real friendship with a toy?

Are all people creative inside their head?

#5 As a class students voted on which question they are most interested in discussing.

This was our question:

Can people love toys more than people?

#6 I asked my beginner EAL student to map out everyone’s names and track the conversation using a ‘Harkness’:

Whilst I wrote down everyone’s comments:

Name Comment
I think that it is false, toys are not life and people are real things
I disagree some people can love toys more because maybe people dont play with their friends but with toys more
I agree with samantha because you might like your family more than toys
I agree with Seoyun because you can like toy but you love people more
I disagree if you are poor you can love your toys more, especially if your parents are mean to you
people are more important than toys
I disagree because you can love your toys better than your friends, sometimes you play with them more than your friends
I agree with samantha because are more important than toys
I disagree with samantha because people need toys for their lives
I disagree with samantha because i like my teddies more than my parent because i’ve had them for so long that i feel like they are part of my family
some people have so many toys
but you also like your toys because they are soft and you can cuddle them if you’re cold
Humans can take of you, but little toys cant take care of you. families are important, they can also teach you and help you to lead a better life. but toys are also good because they can help you to feel better.
you can like toys more than your classmates, because sometimes they can be mean
i disagree with samantha because sometimes when your parents aren’t home, you can cuddle your toys
i agree with zahra because some people, orphans dont have parents who love them, so for them they do love toys and they must like their toys more than people because they have nothing else. they can help you to sleep well.
i disagree with jihun because if someone is nice you don’t play with them
you can like your toy more than your friends, because sometimes your friends can be mean to you all day.
i disagree and agree with sam because if they have no parents how did they get the toys
how did orphans get the money
if your parents are out and you have no sister or brother then toys are important
toys cant hurt your feelings but people can
your parents can have a reason to put you in the orphanage or not
sometimes people can play with their toys

My question now is:

Where could my students go to with this next?  

Do any of these questions merit from a deeper inquiry?

Stimulating Inquiry with a philosophy framework

I feel like I’ve reached a new understanding about teaching through inquiry.

And it all comes down to who is actually doing the thinking in my classroom. 

I realized that a lot of it is me. 

And it shouldn’t be mostly me.

Jeff Utecht stated at the Learning2 conference this year that “We are creating problem solvers, when we need problem finders.”  I’d also add that we are creating question-answerers when we need to create question-askers.

For the last year, I have been asking my students to partake in ‘Harkness conversations’, where I ask a very open, concept-based question, such as

  1. Do we always know what we are feeling?
  2. “Reactions and responses are similar.” Do you agree or disagree.
  3. Do your thoughts drive your emotions or your emotions drive your thoughts?


I completely remove myself from the conversation and ask them to discuss it openly, whilst I track who is speaking and record their ideas.  It is an excellent tool to record their thinking, to uncover what they think, what connections they make and perhaps what misconceptions they have.  However, the questions are generated by ME.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself:

  • To what extent do I value student questions?
  • How can I guide students to create and discuss concept based rather than content based questions?
  • What do I need to do to create a culture of discussion and justification in my classroom?

Then I came across the P4C philosophy. Philosophy about being open mindedness and curious about the world. My students are naturally like this – open-minded and constantly asking questions.  They already have some of the skills required to be philosophers!

Philosophy 4 Children is a simple, ten-step, guided inquiry framework where students devise their own questions and then the class will discuss one chosen question.


I realize that the stimulus needs to be very powerful and relevant to generate the appropriate questions for our Unit Of Inquiry.

This framework from P4C will build on the speaking and listening skills which my students have developed through the Harkness but will add another dimension: more higher order thinking and questioning skills.