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Big Ideas for K-12

found in: arts; language arts; social studies; preK-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12

Big Ideas for K-12

These literature and visual arts based resources give K-12 language arts, social studies, and art students an opportunity to wrestle with big ideas. Most of the books should be available in school or public libraries.

Teaching Children Philosophy: Book Modules  (K-4) is a generous, and alphabetized library of activities linked to children’s books, many of them picture books, that raise serious questions. Each book entry includes a summary, guidelines for philosophical discussion, and groups of questions. Only the books need to be supplied. Horton Hears A Who  provides a representative entry. Horton provides an opportunity to discuss the theory and nature of knowledge. The guidelines supply background and suggest ways to approach the questions raised by Horton’s encounter with the folks of Whoville. Four groups of questions tackle belief, opposition to belief and threat, and evidence.

Another literature resource can include somewhat older students (K-5). Philosophy and Children’s Literature presents an alphabetized collection that can be filtered by 10 fields of philosophy, including aesthetics, ethics, and logic. Entries provide brief summaries. In the Langston Hughes poem “Dreams,” filed under metaphysics, students are asked to consider the importance of dreams. In The Hole by Oyvind Torseter, also filed under metaphysics, a man moves into a new house an encounters a hole that appears to move around. After listening to the story, students work silently in small groups to record in writing on poster board their “conversations” relating to a prompt. Afterward, groups silently read the poster boards of other groups.

In reality, all these books can probably be used successfully with even older students who have probably grown up reading them or hearing them read to them. Looking at something familiar in a different way can be fun and can renew appreciation. The concepts encountered can engage all ages.

Philosophy @ The Virtual Art Museum: Doing Philosophy through Visual Images (6-12) presents six groups of visual art: portraits, landscapes, expressionist, abstract, conceptual, and photography. Each image can be enlarged and is accompanied by a series of questions to help focus student attention on the work.  Each group of images is then followed by a series of philosophical questions: on beauty, self-knowledge, objectification, abstraction, and other concepts. A PDF of each group including all questions can be downloaded. For example, John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X  is accompanied by 4 questions, the last of which refers to the scandal that arose when the painting was first shown in Paris in 1884. Within 10 years, similar paintings of the same model were received without fuss. One of the sections 7 concluding philosophical questions considers art and decency and whether art should adhere to a community’s standards of taste.



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