University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Tips for Successful Pre-College Philosophy Sessions

Things to Do

Remember that the whole point is to help the students to develop their own thinking.

Let the discussion flow from the students’ questions and ideas. After reading a story or doing an activity, ask, “What questions did this make you think of?”

Encourage the students to build on each other’s ideas.

Show the students that what they say makes you think.

Encourage the students to speak to one another.

Good leading questions to ask in a philosophy session:

“What did you mean when you said . . .?”

“That’s an interesting idea. Can you explain what you were thinking when you said that?”

“When you said . . . , did you mean . . . ?”

“How does what you just said relate to what ____ said a moment ago?”

“So if what you just said is true, is ____ also true?”

“When you said ____, were you assuming ____?”

Things Not To Do

Tell the students their answers are right or wrong.

Plan to teach the students some philosophical argument or point.

Insist on your own views.

Be uncomfortable with intervals of silence.

Give a definitive answer to a philosophical question.

Permit lengthy discussions of relatively unimportant issues.

Monopolize the discussion.

Resolve issues for them.

Try to show the students how philosophically sophisticated you are.