Category Archives: Philosophy

Your Logical Fallacy Is…

After jumping into a rabbit hole in the form of this article about a recent study showing positive effects related to teaching philosophy to children, I found a website that I wish I’d discovered at least 6 months ago.  Your Logical Fallacy Is… details the erroneous but persuasive arguments that many propagandists use, from politicians to advertisers.  The site makes it quite easy to “call someone out” by offering the tools to identify and share specific logical fallacies through social networks.  Just click on the icon for a particular logical fallacy on the home page, and it will take you to a page describing the fallacy along with an example.  Teachers might also be interested in the free, downloadable poster, which gives short summaries of each of the twenty-four fallacies defined on the site.

In this era of “false news” and an overabundance of information to sift through, teaching our students to think critically is vital.  It’s nice to see studies that suggest that teaching philosophy might improve student performance in areas such as reading and math, but neither of those skills are of much use to students who don’t know how to determine what is valid and what is a smokescreen.

(For more resources on using philosophy in the classroom, you can also read this post and this one.

Logical Fallacies 1
Gosh – I feel like I’ve heard this one recently… image from: Mark Klotz on Flickr

 

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Kids Philosophy Slam 2017

Is the pen mightier than the sword?  I think you may guess where I side when it comes to that question – but it’s how our students feel that matters to the folks at the Kids Philosophy Slam.  Students from K-12 are invited to submit their responses to the prompt by March 10, 2017.  You can read about the rules for each category here.

If you are looking for resources on philosophy to use with your students, “Teaching Children Philosophy” may be a great place to start.  For this particular topic, you might want to try the “Ethics” page.

With older students, you might want to introduce the topic with this attention-grabbing Geico commercial:

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/95304400
Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/95304400

Kids Philosophy Slam 2016

The annual Kids Philosophy Slam has announced its new topic for 2016 – Imagination or Knowledge: Which has a Greater Impact on Society?

I’m determined to have my students enter this year, as I think that they will have a lot to say about this topic!  For more information about the rules for the Philosophy Slam, check out this page.

If you think your students are too young to think philosophically, read about how Joelle Trayers handles philosophy with her Kinder class!

Philosophy Slam

CommonLit

I was so thrilled to see this post by Richard Byrne (who is one of my favorite Engaging Educators!) about CommonLit.

This is going to be an awesome resource for me to use with my 4th and 5th grade GT students.  I will let Richard tell you the details, but suffice it to say that it is a great way to encourage deep discussion in your class, and offers downloadable texts that you can use to tantalize your students with philosophical questions.

image from CommonLit.org
image from CommonLit.org

I plan to use this with Socratic Smackdown (which I also found out about from Richard).  Socratic Smackdown has been a great success in my classroom and CommonLit will augment it even more.

You might also want to consider using some of the CommonLit themes to enrich your students’ writing if they are participating in this year’s Philosophy Slam (deadline is 3/6/15). The “Social Change and Revolution” theme on CommonLit could definitely help students determine if violence or compassion has a greater impact on society.

 

Just Give Me the Swedish Meatballs So I Can Call it a Day

If you ever really want to quiet a room full of 5th grade students, try telling them this: “I’m going to let you spend 1 hour a week studying whatever you want.  Now pick a topic.”

That was, in essence, the way I introduced Genius Hour to my class for the first time many years ago.  I would not recommend that approach.

After getting over the initial exuberance of such unprecedented academic freedom, they became paralyzed.  It was like I had dumped them in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and said, “Choose a direction and start swimming” – and they’d never been in a body of water bigger than a bathtub.

I refined my technique over the years.  If you visit my Genius Hour Resources page, you will see some QR Code Bookmarks you can use to get them started with ideas as well as some good websites to visit.

The thing about choice is that too much of it can be just as defeating as too little.  This is what Barry Schwartz argues in his TED talk, “The Paradox of Choice.

And it’s what I tell myself whenever I leave IKEA empty-handed 5 hours after I entered.

According to Mr. Schwartz, “Choice within constraint is essential. Choice without constraint is paralyzing.”

With that in mind, I tried a different approach to Genius Hour this year.  My 4th graders started the year doing “Heart Maps” to brainstorm their passions.  They also did Multiple Intelligence Surveys (the North Star Smart Stars iPad app is great for kids!) to get more data on their interests.  In addition, I gave them a career list based on the Multiple Intelligences, and had them circle any that appealed to them.

Armed with those three pieces of information, the students were assigned to look for trends. They seemed surprised and delighted to find similarities and patterns in what they had chosen for each activity.

Then I dropped the bomb.

“Pretend you were allowed to study whatever you want in school starting tomorrow.  Based on this knowledge about yourself that you have in front of you, what questions would you like to find the answers to?  Brainstorm as many questions as you can in the next 5 minutes.”

And they did.  Even the student who had told me all day, for every activity, “I just can’t think of anything.”  Even he had three ideas by the end of the 5 minutes.

If you’re a teacher who is about to try out Genius Hour for the first time, I recommend that you keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with establishing limits and some parameters can actually give more freedom than none at all.

Now if I can just get Ikea to take that advice…

choice

What Do You Do With an Idea?

The easy answer to the question is to cook it.

But I should probably back up a bit.

All of the elementary GT teachers in our district received a book before the holidays called, What Do You Do With an Idea?  It’s a beautifully illustrated book that figuratively represents a boy’s idea as he conceives it, nearly abandons it, and then nurtures it until it “spreads its wings.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For some reason, I thought this would be a good book to share with my 1st grade GT students.  That was my brilliant idea – and I didn’t ponder it long enough to realize that it was a bad one.

“Have you ever had an idea that you wanted to share, but were afraid other people would make fun of you?” I asked as an introduction to the book.

“Yes!” a 1st grader emphatically confirmed.

“Oh, what was your idea?”

“I wanted to go to my friend’s house,” she said.

So that led to a discussion about what I meant by the word, “idea.”

We finally got to the book.  And, as I started reading it I quickly became uncomfortably aware that I hadn’t looked at the story with 1st grader eyes the first few times I read it.

“Why do you think the illustrator used an egg as the boy’s idea?” I asked.

“I know!  Because he was hungry.”

“It’s not really an egg.  It’s a chicken.  It has feet,” another student pointed out.

Things further deteriorated when I got to the part about the boy “feeding” his idea.  I had apparently chosen the precise time of day to share this story when the distance between breakfast and lunch seemed far too wide to my “starving students.”  Between food and the ambiguity of a walking egg, the conversation wandered quite far from what I had imagined when I put this book in my lesson plans 3 weeks ago.

At home that afternoon, I thought about what had happened to my idea – the great one that I had of sharing this book with my 1st graders, engaging them in a deep, philosophical discussion (as described here), and then asking them to generate a piece of artwork with their own ideas (like these awesome examples).

I forgot to boil my egg.  That was the problem.  I just plucked a raw egg out of the carton and spun it like a top on the table – and it went wildly out of control.

What do you do with an idea?

Boil it in water for 10 minutes.

If it cracks, then you’ll know that it certainly wouldn’t have survived the heat of a room full of 1st graders.

365 Days of Wonder

I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes.  Like many people, I have a Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations.  But I particularly revel in printed collections of quotations.  In July I shared a book of hand-lettered quotes that I purchased called, Whatever You Are Be a Good One.  I love the art of each page, and I am still debating whether or not to pull out some of them to frame.

365 Days of Wonder is in no danger of being torn apart.  Most of the pages are printed in simple fonts that belie the wisdom of the sentences.  However, it is a book that I treasure because of a few other aspects that make it unique.

wonder

The book might be called a “spin-off.”  The quotes were collected by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder.  Its foreword and subsequent introductions before each month of inspirational sayings are “written” by one of the admirable characters in Wonder, Mr. Browne. In Wonder, Mr. Browne’s precepts play an important role in guiding the characters.  365 Days of Wonder offers more advice that he has collected during his fictional career – including precepts submitted by children. All of the contributors are acknowledged in the back of the book.

An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder
An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder

I could be partial to this book because of Mr. Browne.  I am currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and he reminds me somewhat of the noble Atticus Finch.   It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that the words I’m reading come from an author and not the seasoned educator portrayed in the book. For example, these words herald the beginning of the February group of quotations: “The truth of the matter is this: there’s so much nobility lurking inside your souls.  Our job as parents, and educators, and teachers, is to nurture it, to bring it out, and to let it shine.”

R.J. Palacio is responsible for quite a few original precepts of her own.