My best lesson - Head for the fast lane in philosophy lessons

22nd August 2014 at 01:00

Philosophy provides students with an intellectual challenge, owing to its conceptual and abstract nature. Teachers are therefore continually checking for understanding to enhance students' experience and progress. A useful technique for this is a game called "Run, Socrates, Run", which works particularly well at the beginning or end of a unit.

Every pupil is given a copy of a piece of text. They then arrange themselves into groups of four, each of which receives a mini-whiteboard and pen. Four questions on the text are placed in the room, one in every corner. The questions are always open-ended and require students to think deeply about a concept.

Each group numbers its members from 1 to 4. Student 1 has to find question 1, memorise it and run back to the group. They then interrogate the text and record the answer on the mini-whiteboard. This is taken to the teacher to check, and if the answer is sufficiently competent, the group moves on to question 2 (to be memorised by student 2, and so on).

However, if the answer is inadequate or reveals a misunderstanding, the teacher requests a new or more developed response.

This continues until all the groups have completed all the questions. There is, of course, an edible prize for the winner.

Next, we write up the questions and answers as a class, discussing any misconceptions or clarifications of our understanding of the text.

As a plenary, students each select five key words from the text that they feel best illustrate or summarise the concept. We share ideas on the board and, through group discussion, agree on the final five words as a class.

Pupils enjoy the challenge of having to explain their thinking, working together to construct answers in order to gain confidence in complex areas. The lesson can be very lively and is as applicable to other subjects as it is to philosophy.

Sian May teaches at Sha Tin College in Hong Kong

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