Pick a card, any card – get children reading and writing using a simple pack of cards.


Philosophy for Children (P4C) and other thinking skills approaches are designed to promote thinking skills (obviously!), alongside a host of other learning dispositions: becoming a better listener, giving explanations, reasons and developing a critical response, including being able to ask ‘good’ questions.


Our Starters for Thinking cards will do just that and for that reason I provided a Ten Ideas_Starters for Thinking which many people are already using as a way to get going, adding ideas of their own as they progress.


In this blog I wanted to explore more specifically the links to literacy in these ideas: How many require children to use their reading and writing skills, as well as thinking about and discussing the starter questions?



I wonder … How much literacy is possible with one pack of cards?



Well - here are 5 ideas from that original pdf that I’ve extended, to require more from children in terms of reading or writing. We know that the best practice for reading and writing is when children can see there is a real purpose: in this case the recording, displaying, communicating and sharing of thoughts, ideas, information and opinions.


I’ve highlighted the words that allude to literacy skills by writing them in capitals and added some extension/additional ideas, so if you wanted the focus of a thinking session to be on literacy these are the ones that you could  highlight these as part of your planning.


This is obviously not exhaustive – I haven’t made links with grammar; framing questions for example, but that would be possible with some of them.


Five ideas for The Starters for Thinking cards


1.   Pick a card – any card. Lay it on the floor or ask a child to WRITE it in the middle of a piece of paper. You might want to ask EVERY CHILD TO WRITE THE GROUP QUESTION DOWN in their individual Thinking Journals.  (or some children could WRITE in the air) .  Now tell the children you want them to ‘question the question’.  First of all, ask children to turn to their partners and each READ the question out loud to each other. They then think and talk about what first springs to mind – possibly WRITING DOWN THEIR FIRST IDEAS AND RESPONSES. Then give them more time to think of two more questions, that they then share by WRITING them on post it notes and placing around the original question on the floor. Then provide some time for children to get up and move around the post its and READ all the different questions that have been generated. Ask some children to READ out their favourites, explaining why they think it is a good question. Vote on the one that you want to take into the next Thinking/Philosophy session. The vote could be at the next session when they are presented with a list of the questions to READ before they vote. Ask some children to WRITE the voting results in whatever format they think is best.



2.  Find a card that is able to generate an instant response – e.g. Would we learn more if we didn’t go to school?’ Place ‘Yes / No posters at either end of the room and ask children to stand next to one. Then pair them up with someone standing under the opposite poster and give them 2 or 3 minutes to ‘persuade’ the other to come and stand with them. Then give everyone the opportunity to move if they wish. Ask any who have changed their minds to explain why.    The literacy extension to this would be for the children to design and WRITE adverts, posters or persuasive articles – or balanced explanatory texts.



3.  Take one card – conduct a group brainstorm and then ask children to WRITE and DRAW a mind map to show all the associated themes and thoughts that it generates – Their mind map can be a fairly quick activity, giving children an opportunity to capture all their initial thoughts. These can then be developed in a deeper discussion and into STORY WRITING. E.g. ‘Do animals have a personality?’ is one of the cards in the pack. This could be used to explore the characterisation of an animal that eventually features in children’s STORIES.



4.  Ask children to begin by WRITING a list of their responses to a question: ‘E.g. What would you do if you knew you could do real magic? Give them time to record their first thoughts. Then give more time to allow them to sort and categorise ideas in different ways – to WRITE different headings/ sub lists:  Magic for good reasons, Selfish reasons, Known and unknown acts of magic, Permanent changes, for Punishment etc.    Children then swap ideas in pairs or small groups, READING others’ ideas and talking about the differences.



5.   Play a game of verbal tennis with one of the cards. Children line up facing each other and one person from one of the lines ‘serves’ their first idea. Someone from the opposite team returns the ‘serve’ with an idea of their own – but it must be connected in some way to what has just been said. Each play has to be connected to the last one – or the team is ‘out’. A longer version of this game would be for children to ‘serve and return’ their ideas in WRITING. Following the verbal version, make a rule that the next round has to be done in silence, with the only form of communication being paper and pens. The results can be displayed as each sides of an argument with the written responses from each side of the debate on either side of the ‘net’ – or can be WRITTEN up into longer pieces of text.


These are just 5 ideas that are possible from a small pack of cards costing just £10. So to answer my original question: How much literacy is possible from one pack of cards? Well I reckon the list is endless.

Click the photo to purchase your own pack of cards and start using these ideas with your children.

Starter for thinking










You might also want to consider a Class Set of Thinking Journals – a great way to encourage children to do more READING &WRITING – but in the context of thinking and in purposeful ways.


Thinking Journals

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