The power of P4C to transform writing

I have practised P4C (Philosophy for Children) for over ten years and have facilitated countless fascinating enquiries with children. I have also witnessed many times the power of oral rehearsal of key phrases to improve children's writing. I wanted to understand how P4C could contribute to this.

I made prompt cards with phrases used in formal persuasive writing. For example, “I strongly believe...”. At the beginning of writing lessons, I left these cards on the floor in the middle of the circle, and led a P4C enquiry. As the enquiry progressed, the children started to use the key phrases. Later, the children wrote. The impact on engagement with writing, attitude towards writing, and ultimately the standard of writing, was phenomenal. The children were able to use the higher-level phrases accurately.

The children are now more active learners... using their own initiative and altering their learning behaviours. Less passive... they know they must contribute.
— Year 5 teacher
My children have started thinking for themselves.
— Year 1 teacher

Next came whole-school training and the approach soon became something of an institution at my school. The phrases from the cards became known as the 'P4C phrases'. The phrases were used in P4C from Nursery to Year 6, and the impact was felt on spoken language as well as written language. Over time, the children used the phrases beyond the context of P4C - in other classroom discussions and debates, in guided reading sessions, and so on. Visitors were frequently amazed by how articulate the children were.

I am passionate about children having a positive experience of writing and would love to work with schools who want to develop this further.