English Week — The Philosophy Foundation
“I cannot teach anybody anything.
I can only make them think”
Children from the moment they can talk are always asking the question ‘why?’
Here at The Philosophy Foundation we are committed to encourage them to continue asking ‘why?’ throughout their lives by bringing philosophy to the wider community, and in particular into schools.
Philosophical enquiry can benefit children’s abilities in English in many ways — research has shown that regular philosophical enquiry improves reading abilities, particularly for children on free school meals, and regular enquiry develops speaking and listening skills for all children.
Philosophy can help to shape the way we think and live in the world. Learning to think clearly and creatively helps in many ways — the most obvious being the effect it has upon one’s actions.
Here are three ways that our philosophy sessions can improve children’s abilities in English:
●By sensitising children to the richness and ambiguities of language.
Our sessions often focus on particular words like ‘freedom’ or ‘happiness’. By thinking closely about words, children discover that they are not simple and that they have many shades of meaning. This involves finding synonyms and antonyms, and investigating how meaning changes with context.
●By encouraging children to use language to articulate their thoughts.
We ask children to tell us what they think. Because they are expressing their own thoughts, children start to think carefully about the words they use. And because it is all about their thoughts, children see that language can be a means of individuality and something they can take ownership of.
●By enhancing children’s questioning skills.
Understanding a piece of writing begins when we realise it could have been written differently; this realisation starts the questioning process. Why did the protagonist do that? Why does the story end here? Why did the writer use this word? By encouraging children to think about the way world is and how it could be different, philosophy helps develop children’s ability to question.