Monday, 5 October 2015


I'm interested in exploring with the class, in general terms, what it means to know something. There's Plato's three-part definition: that

  1. the thing must be true, 
  2. you must believe it, and 
  3. you must have grounds for believing it.

I'm especially interested in that last one. I don't want to "teach" any of this of course, but I'm interested in providing stimuluses that will provoke the class to explore the whole area.

Here are three short lessons from the last three weeks.

I told a story about a girl called Leena who sees the poster for Star Wars, and although she hasn't seen the film, she tells the basic story of the film to her friends, which they like.
 And I asked the question:

Quite a few children found the question quite a challenge, but I was determined to press on. Next week...
 I've mentioned the story The Sound the Hare Heard before. It's basically an ancient Henny Penny story, with the difference that Lion sorts out the problem by investigating the truth of it.

Here's some whiteboard notes of some of the responses to it:
This time I felt like the ideas and conversation was flowing a bit more. Probably a better story!

This week we started by reviewing the previous two. Having seen Rosy's great philosophy sessions with Year 5, there was going to be more moving about, more quick-fire involvement. Children had to stand up and go to one side of the classroom (or stay in the middle if they were unsure) depending on what they felt about these.
Most went to the left. When it came to justifying their position there were a variety of examples:
  • A time I'd been scared, but not of anything real,
  • When I'd thought a book was going to be about a boy, but it turned out to be about an animal,
  • When I thought I'd broken my leg but I hadn't really.
  • I have lots of crazy ideas.
  • I thought I couldn't breathe (and then thinking this made it come true),

This provoked some really interesting ideas. Most went to the right, with lots in the middle too.
On the right, justifications:

M: It's fun discovering things, good to learn,
B: There is too much knowledge in the world for one person to know,
R: What about scary truths, that once you know them you can't hide from them any more?
R: What about secrets that you're not supposed to know,
T: Some things different people think different things, and one is not more right than the other.

I was really pleased to hear such interesting ideas. And pleased too because Rosy was sitting in on the lesson. I'll be visiting her's again later this week, perhaps to video this time.

I rounded this one off by telling the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, which most of them know, but is worth retelling.

None of what we've done is what you'd call conclusive. But
  • I do think we're getting more at home in the territory;
  • We're getting used to some of the ways of doing this: justifying opinions, giving examples, changing our mind, listening to each other carefully.
  • It seems to be getting more fun, and everyone is joining in more.

Watch this space.


  1. Simon there is a paper by Charles Pierce published in the 1877 called The Fixation of Belief which your blog reminded me of. 'the irritation of doubt and the struggle for belief' the words themselves are loaded now and have different conotations but it is a worthwhile read.