What Kind of Question is This?

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Area: Other Areas
Grade Level: Primary/Elementary School
Topics: philosophical skills, Questions
Estimated Time Necessary: 20-30 Minutes

Lesson Plan

To learn and practice the distinction between philosophical and other kinds of questions.
Students will have an opportunity to learn the difference between philosophical and other kinds of questions, which in turn will help them participate in a community of philosophical inquiry.

This lesson works well for early elementary school students (kindergarten-3rd grade) and can be used either in a classroom or online.

This is a helpful activity to do with elementary aged students to help differentiate between philosophical and other kinds of questions. This helps build their skills of identifying and asking philosophical questions during philosophy sessions.

There are at least two ways to begin:

  1. Early in the process of working with the group, discuss philosophy and philosophical questions, focusing on the kinds of questions philosophers ask. Then, ask the students what they are wondering about. Make a list of their questions.
  2. Start with a set of questions of your own, ensuring the list includes scientific, historical, factual, and philosophical questions.

Make an electronic slide deck with the questions as well as vibrant images related to those questions. For example, on the slide for the question “Why is the cardinal the state bird of North Carolina?” you could include a picture of a cardinal. This works best with one question per slide.

Mix the various kinds of questions up, rotating between factual, historical, scientific, and philosophical questions. Explain the various kinds of questions to the students.

As  you go through the slides with the students, ask them to suggest what kind of question is represented. You can ask follow-up questions such as:

  • What makes you think it is that kind of question?
  • How would someone who had this question go about answering it?
  • Does the question fit into more than one category?

At the end, you can finish with a discussion of what makes a question a philosophical question.

This lesson plan was contributed by: Karen Emmerman, PLATO Education Director.