Philosophy for Children p4c

Across the whole school we are introducing Philosophy for Children (known as p4C) into our regular teaching programs. Philosophy for children fits really well with teaching practises already embedded in our school, designed to help students with their critical thinking skills and oral language. What p4C seeks to do is give students another opportunity during the week to use their critical thinking and language skills in a structured way, led and scaffolded by the teacher and other students. A typical p4C session would have the students sitting in a circle and being presented with a stimulus. This stimulus might be a book, a video, an artefact, anything that might stimulate some questions and discussion.

Last week the stimulus for the prep students were all Julia Donaldson books. Julia Donaldson is the awesome author we are exploring during our library session.



The students worked together in small groups to think of questions that they had about the stories; such as (In the Gruffalo) ‘I wonder why the mouse was so scary? The students then picked the questions they thought would be most interesting to talk about and had a conversation, sitting in the circle, about the question chosen. It was exciting to hear the student’s ideas and thinking and we look forward to building the students thinking and language skills as the year progresses.

This week the students looked at the picture below before coming up with questions that they ‘wondered about’.

Some of the questions were:

Where did the picture come from?
What is the boy doing holding a ring and a stick?
Why is Mrs Smith showing us this picture?
Do you think the children will play with each other?
Are they the only toys that the kids had?

The stimulus and the discussion that followed with the students sitting in a circle was very interesting. It led to students giving their opinions with reasons, agreeing and disagreeing (again with reasons), questioning whether a stick could be used as a toy, and if so how? They also shared thoughts and ideas about what toys were like in the olden days and why toys make us happy most of the time.

This is only the students second philosophy session but already we are seeing students taking part confidently, listening to each other, speaking clearly in the circle and importantly really enjoying the discussions.

Have a look at the photo below with your child and write a ‘wondering’ in the comments section of the blog.


10 house points for every wondering question posted.

The Prep team.

Prep Investigations Reporting ; Prep News!!

At the end of every Prep Investigations session comes a very important aspect of the children’s learning; reporting and reflecting on the learning.

Each day 2 different students are chosen to accompany the teacher for the final 30 minutes of ‘Investigations’ to find examples of ‘good learning’ that can be reported to the class at the end of the session. As the students move around the room they use the ipad to take photos of the children they are speaking to and ask questions to find out what the children are doing, what they are learning from this and what they might do next. Every session they have to interview a student who has not already been reported on. This is a great chance for the teacher to coach and scaffold the children about what ‘good learning’ looks like and to discuss the sorts of opportunities for learning that present themselves during Investigations time. This process also helps to build the oral language skills of the two reporter students and of the students that are chosen to be reported on.

The teachers track this carefully so that we ensure all the students will have a chance to be a reporter and to be chosen to be reported on.

Once the reporters have finished the interviews they then help the teacher make a comic book poster. These posters are put up onto the large Interactive Whiteboard screen in the classroom and the reporters then present the 5 minute ‘Prep News’. The reporters use a microphone to speak to the class and to explain the learning they have seen around the room.

The comic book posters are then printed out and they either come home with the students or if you have let us have your e-mail they are send straight to you to enjoy. We have had some lovely feedback from parents that they enjoy recieving these emails.

Here are some examples of the comic book posters which show the diverse range of planning, thinking, creativity and learning which are already happening every day in the prep room.

What has been happening in Investigations recently.

We have been seeing some amazing independent, paired and group learning during Investigations recently.

Since we introduced our new planning board to help guide and scaffold students opening questions for their Investigations we have seen an amazing change in the way that students are researching their questions and finding information out about their Inquiry topics.

We are now encouraging the students to use their writing and reading skills to find information in books they can read and also to use Internet websites such as Wiki answers and other websites to help them. Watching the students typing their questions into google (largely independently) and then reading the answers is amazing and empowering for the students as they experience how exciting learning can be!

Here are a selection of videos and photos showing some of the amazing results of the learning. It is interesting to see that the information books and posters are now including answers to the questions that the students set themselves at the start of their Investigation on their planners, together with other relevant information. They are also starting to select pictures to match their writing and visa versa and working together in a truly collaborative way.


Speaking, listening, thinking and questioning

Today we started our “Mystery Box” challenge.

Each week, 12 lucky children will bring home their small box to bring a special item back into class to see if their classmates can guess what is in the box from the clues they give and the questions that are asked. We break into 4 smaller groups for this so each student (both presenters and questioners) get lots of talk time.

We were very impressed today to see all 12 children remembered their special boxes and we had some great items inside, such as a magic kit, a karate belt, a snowdome, some crystals, a swiss bell and some toys. The students were so excited to share the contents of their boxes and talk about what they had brought in.

We also had some great clues given and questions asked such as ‘can you wear it?’ ‘what is it made of?’ ‘does it move?’ ‘can you eat it?’ ‘is it something you can play with?’ ‘does it bounce?’

We can’t wait to see what comes into class next Wednseday!

Thanks to Banjo’s teachers at Barwon Heads PS for this great speaking and listening idea!

What has been happening in Investigations recently?

As we approach the middle of the year, it seems timely to reflect on and show case some of the amazing Investigations and visible thinking the prep students have been engaged in during their 2 hour daily Investigations learning sessions. They have come an amazingly long way in the 82 days they have had at school so far!

We have put together three short videos to show some of the visible thinking processes that the children are using to help them build their skills of Inquiry, research, questioning and learning about the world. You will see the children using and referring to our two Investigations planning boards. These have become an integral part of our program this term with children using the ‘questioning board’ to help them think of key questions to drive their Inquiry learning. Our planning board allows children to track their own progress by listening at the beginning of a session to their recordings on the talking tin lids and then at the end of each session updating their planning board by summarising their progress in that session and highlighting the all important ‘where to next’ step for their learning. These processes are helping the students to take control of their own learning and to set achievable learning goals or success criteria.

You will also see some of the ‘Prep guides’ to making information books, posters and Dioramas. These have been created together with the children and it has been fantastic to see the students using the criteria as they work often discussing such things as ‘Our book now needs a front page with a title’ or ‘we have to put our question and answers onto our poster‘.

The children are learning about different ways to show what they have learnt, such as producing posters, models, 3D dioramas, books and of course presenting what they have learned in oral presentations to the class.

Of course in addition to the students visible thinking skills, this learning environment gives the children plenty of time to apply and practise their literacy and numeracy skills in a meaninful way as they take forward their own personalized Inquiry learning.

We are very impressed with the learning that we see every day in our prep room. We’d love to know what you think about it?

The Cheeky Chicken Adventure.

Mrs Gardiner took the chicks home for the weekend and one of them escaped around her house. Luckily she had her camera with her and this meant that the prep children were then able to write some recounts about the adventures of the cheeky chick. These have been made into a class book.

We developed specific vocabulary for the children to use by having them first read the pictures. These words were then recorded onto small whiteboards and the children worked with a partner or in small groups to produce a shared piece of writing. (We call this Interactive writing). We were very impressed with the complexity of the sentences that the children wrote.

Have a read of the pages of the book below to find out about the Adventures of the Cheeky Chick!

Fantastic work Preps!!

Using Technology to help build vocabulary for writing.

Big news in the prep room is we have Living Eggs. Yesterday an incubator was delivered with 10 eggs and the preps have been loving observing the changes in the eggs as they begin to ‘pip’ and then hatch into chicks. This experience is fantastic for helping the children understand about Life cycles and it is also providing a fantastic stimulus for oral language development and writing.




During our writing time today, the focus was on developing topic specific vocabulalry to help support writing about the chicks experience. The aim was to produce a ‘word shower’ created by the children with input from the stimulus, teachers and the technology on hand in the classroom. The children worked in small groups of 4 to think of words and then to generate new words.

The results of our learning today were amazing.

We used 2 key pieces of technology.

The first was our ‘talking tin lids’ which allowed children to record their ideas and words that they are not yet able to write and to remember these when they had to share them back to the class.



The second was our I-pads. The 7 ipads in our classroom are used daily by our children to support their learning. They are not kept in a cupboard or used as a reward for finishing work early but are always available for students to use when they need to during their learning. Most frequently this is for taking photos, finding pictures on the internet, reseaching a topic ,making posters and presenting their learning. Today we used ‘google’ to help generate new vocabulary linked to our topic.

Before using the i-pads we asked the children to record words they already knew about our hatching egg stimulus.Some children noticed a poster in the room and together the class came up with 8 words. Egg, Hatching, brooder, chick, chicken, hen, pipping, incubator. We thought this was pretty good.

We then gave each group of children one of these words and modelled how to type this word into ‘google images’ and generate new words from the pictures that appear. They then had to record new words that came to mind from looking at the pictures. For example, the group with the word ‘Egg’ found pictures of ‘shell’, ‘yolk’ and ‘white’, therefore expanding the topic words. After 10 minutes or so all the groups shared their new words and now our word shower had over 40 words!!



Interestingly, the google images search for ‘Hatching’ showed many cars (hatchbacks) and doors which led to the discussion about some words having more than one meaning, introducing Preps to Homonyms!

The children then used this topic specific vocabulary to work with a partner using an Interactive approach to their writing. We think that what they produced for children who have been at school now for just over 50 days was pretty amazing.

I think we will definately be using this approach again to help develop vocabulary and language.

Amazing impact that using visual learning goals can have on learning.

As you might have seen from our recent blog post, 3 weeks ago we introduced the children to a drawing rubric to show them what a good picture should look like when preparing for writing or ideas generation. As we near the end of this term we have taken some work samples directly from the children’s books. These pieces of work (shown below) are side by side from the same child’s book. In each photo the work on the left is from 7th Feb and work on the write from 19th March, just6 weeks  later.

The difference in the quality of the work is incredible and we think due in a large part to the visual rubric that we have introduced with the children. All the pictues on the right have much more detail, are carfully drawn, involve good use of colour, convey a much greater message and also include  attempts to write words and in some cases very accurately copied sentences with spaces between words and well formed letters.

We could have included work from ever one of our 50 prep childrens’ books that showed the same amazing progress but here are some of the samples which really speak for themsleves. Every student will have their own ‘before and after’ picture sample sent home at the end of term with their interim school reports.

We are so proud of how quickly the Prep children are embracing their learning and driving themselves toward the high expectations for success that we have set together with them.


How to practise Magic Words at home.

Banjo (who appears in these films) had just started prep. He has helped me to demonstrate different ways to learn and practise sight words. The key to the learning of the sight words is lots of practise in different ways with as much success as possible to encourage your child. This might mean making cards and just trying 3 words at a time to build up confidence, then slowly introduce other trickier words.

If your child knows some letter sounds they might use these to help them remember words, such as ‘was’ starts with a ‘wuh’ sound. However, remember the eventual goal for your child is to remember these words from their memory (ie to recall the word in less than a second). If a child is still sounding out a magic word then it is not truly known by sight until they can say it without sounding it. We want children to know these magic words by sight so they can use other strategies like ‘sounding out’ and ‘looking at the picture’ when they come to trickier words in each sentence they read.

Try to encourage your child to recognise the shape of the whole word, how many letters it has, any words within words (ie ‘That’ has ‘at’ in it).

Another good idea is to try to spot these words in your child’s readers to help give the learning of the words extra meaning and context.

We hope these short videos and word games will help:

We hope you found these ideas useful. Look out for some tips on home reading coming soon.

The prep team.

Communication with the messages board

We have this week introduced the students to our Investigations messages board. This is a board for student/teacher communications. This is a great way to encourage the students to think for themselves, develop communication skills, articulate their needs and to build personal organization into their day. Messages can be written or recorded using talking tin lids.

At the end of Tuesday’s session we were left lots of very polite messages about the children’s learning needs.

Here is a short video with some further explanations.

Messages Board explained from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Thanks Prep Team