Delphi took a deep breath. She was a philosopher. She could do this. She stood up straight.
“People of Athens!” she declared, and her voice launched itself across the crowd. “People of Athens, listen to me!”
It could be the last day of Socrates' life. The good news is that an escape is planned - but the bad news is that it's never going to work. Delphi decides the only way Socrates is going to be free is if she can persuade everyone to let him go. But with time running out, can Delphi really make a speech that's persuasive enough?
Why should Socrates be freed?
How can you be persuasive?
Is escaping really the best idea?
Choosing persuasive reasons
Making links between ideas
This lesson gives the children an opportunity to put forward their own philosophical argument based on the story and all the skills they have learned. It focuses on the children’s explanation and persuasion skills by leading them to make a short speech about why Socrates should be freed. This chapter is best covered over two lessons to allow children plenty of time to prepare, practise and present their speech alongside Delphi’s. In the first lesson, the focus can be on gathering ideas and understanding how to speak persuasively. The second lesson can then be used to present the children’s speeches, before hearing Delphi’s and giving their response. As the activities assume some knowledge of Socrates and the story, it is best delivered after other lessons from Delphi the Philosopher.
Lesson Blog: The Escape
This week, we delved into the climax of Delphi’s story – not just in terms of the action but also in terms of a culmination of everything the children have learned in recent weeks. We teach this chapter over two lessons, though it could be covered in one, because we want to give the children lots of time to develop their skills of presenting and persuading. But more of that a little later…
Time is running out for Socrates and his friends have put together an escape plan. This chapter is (very) loosely based on Plato’s Crito, but of course from a very different perspective. Delphi is desperate to help free Socrates, and by this point, most of the children were too. However, they were much less sure whether Socrates escaping would really be his best move. This video shows the discussion. What leaped out at me was how far we had come on this journey. At the start of Delphi, a couple of months before, the children were giving single word answers and not responding to each other. Now look at them.
Proud teacher moment there. Anyway.
Delphi’s job in the escape plan is to cause a distraction, but she quickly decides this isn’t enough. Instead, she will give a speech. She feels that if she can simply be persuasive enough, then maybe she could get the people of Athens to free him.
We commenced some serious brain-storming. What could we say to persuade everyone that Socrates should be free? The children were quick to come up with a range of ideas, some focusing on the moral question, others focusing on why Socrates himself was leading a good life which would benefit others.
As Delphi practises her speech, it quickly becomes apparent that it isn’t just what we say, but how we say it too. Socrates would have hated this of course, but Plato tells Delphi about the famous sophists – persuasive speakers who were often employed to put forward their employer’s agenda in the heated debates of democratic Athens.
We finished the first lesson by learning some of these skills – how to stand straight and look confident, how to speak clearly, pitch our voice and not bury our nose in our notes. While not philosophical skills exactly, roleplaying these essential skills with children can be very powerful. Suddenly children you never expected can present themselves confidently and present their ideas persuasively.
We saw the results the following week. After a brief practise, we continued the story, seeing Delphi’s nerves rise as the time approaches for her own speech (and bumping into a few familiar faces along the way). I loved this part of the lesson – there was a real sense of anticipation in the air as Delphi nervously clambered up on to her stage and tried to get the attention of the initially disinterested crowd. Delphi finally gets their attention, but before we here from her, it’s the children’s turn to present their speeches first. Here’s a little montage.
Many of the children were nervous, but in a way that made them very proud of themselves when they’d finished. It was so lovely to see the children being so supportive of each other and they joined in fantastically. Again, they simply wouldn’t have been able to do this a few months ago. But then, it was Delphi’s turn.
I had great fun writing Delphi’s speech. It’s full of little references and nods to the real-life Delphi and Socrates – not least the ‘know yourself’ line which was famously carved on the Temple of Apollo at the site of the Oracle at Delphi. The children watched in that open-mouthed way that tells a storyteller that they’re doing something right. The air was electric as we continued the story to hear the response to Delphi’s speech…
The silence after that ‘but’ in the middle there was instant. This was one of my favourite storytelling moments of the whole book (though it did take a little while for the children to forgive me for leaving it on a cliffhanger, and in one over-excited case, to let go of my leg).
It had been another very memorable week, and with only one chapter to go, each Delphi session was starting to feel more and more special.
Over to Rosie’s Year 5 class – and for the first time in this series of blogs, we have some wonderful pictures and videos of this class too! Enjoy!
‘The Escape’ is a chapter I always look forward to reading and exploring with a class. This year it was no different. Not only does this chapter allow the children to take on their own independent role in the quest to free Socrates but also we are able to spread out the learning across two weeks. I will talk about both lessons individually to show you the full picture!
The first lesson focuses on persuasion - a skill which is quite a prominent focus within Year 5 writing, so I knew that this lesson would be developing understanding today that they would be able to apply in other areas of the curriculum outside of the philosophy lesson.
The lesson begins with Delphi and Plato encountering Phaedo, Socrates’ friend right back from the very first chapter. He tells them that they are planning on helping Socrates to escape his prison cell without being spotted. He asks Delphi and Plato to come up with a distraction. At this point in the story, I paused and asked my children what they thought the distraction could be. If you watch this clip, you’ll see some of the suggestions.
Soon, we discover Delphi’s actual plan, which is to make a speech trying to convince the people of Athens why Socrates should be free. The children were asked to think about what Delphi should say to persuade the other citizens. I allowed them to go off in pairs and brainstorm what reasons she could give for why he should be free. It was interesting how most of them began in the same place: “Socrates should be free because he was only just asking questions.” But then, a few started to think outside of the box and began to consider things like his family or his happiness. It didn’t take long before some went further and started to explain the meanings of terms like criminal and how that applied to Socrates’ situation. It was pleasing to see them making use of the skills they used during the ‘Miletus’ lesson about exploring the meaning of concepts and seeing how true they are. Some even used their understanding of fairness from last lesson to discuss its implication for Socrates’ freedom.
With the help of Plato, Delphi then learns how to be deliver a speech based on the characteristics the Sophists used back in Ancient Greece. What I love about this part, is that the children also take part in Plato’s lesson. We learnt how to stand with our feet shoulder width apart. We learnt where to look when we are speaking. We learnt how to use our notes so that they were useful but not intrusive. Then the children went off to practise and apply these new skills in preparation for next week’s delivery! Here are some of the outcomes:
The children were excited that today we were going to deliver some of our speeches to persuade the people to free Socrates. This lesson begins with Delphi getting prepared outside the prison, where a large crowd has already began to gather. It is here that we reencounter some familiar faces – those bizarre philosophers from lesson two. I have to say the class were quite thrilled to reunite with Diogenes and were surprised he was out of his barrel for once! Anyway, a stage was set up opposite the prison and with some encouragement from Plato, Delphi steps up to begin her speech.
This was a chance for the children to then complete their final practises of their own speech. It was great to see them applying their skills from last lesson and rehearsing their reasons for why Socrates should be free. There was still blatant enthusiasm in the classroom for the job at hand and a buzz of anticipation for those that were about to share. Watch the videos below to see some examples!
After the excitement of our own speeches, we settled down to finally hear what Delphi had to say on the matter. Reading her speech to the class was quite inspiring. All of them were fully attentive throughout and I even heard a few mutter in agreement with what she was saying. I could tell for some of them it was quite satisfying to hear Delphi making points that they had also come up with for persuading the crowd to free Socrates.
However, Delphi is unfortunately interrupted rather dramatically during her speech by the sudden arrival of Miletus, who, after his previous bad experience with Delphi, tries to stop her from convincing the crowd that the decision he had made about Socrates was wrong. Luckily, Delphi’s friends have her back and Myrtis decided it was time for Miletus’ comeuppance. The reaction in the classroom when he falls into that horse poo was just hilarious! There were even cheers of congratulations.
At the end of her speech, the children were asked whether they thought she had done a good job. I allowed them to discuss with the person sat next to them and it was interesting to hear a variety of different responses. Some thought she had done incredibly well, where as some, having recognised that Socrates had no reappeared from the prison door, felt that she had tried but had not been successful. Here are some of their responses from our feedback time:
At the end of the session, the children discovered that although Delphi’s speech had been incredibly, it hadn’t fully succeeded in its purpose. Phaedo returns and tells Delphi and Plato that Socrates won’t leave. We talked about why this might be the case.
This chapter ends on a bit of cliff hanger, with Phaedo explaining that Socrates wanted to speak to Delphi. The children quite literally screamed at me when I closed the book, obviously eagerly anticipating what would happen next. I felt like this lesson they had truly taken a vital role in the story themselves and so they were living it out alongside Delphi. This emotional investment, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, is one of the greatest aspects of Delphi the Philosopher.
‘The Escape’ chapter is one of my favourites because it quite possibly has one of the greatest impacts on the children’s overall education. Over these last two lessons, the children had learnt how to be persuasive and present their arguments in a clear and concise way. These skills are not only applicable in other subjects where persuasion plays an important role but also help in preparing children for their futures. The skills they have used in these lessons, particularly the second lesson, are helping them to develop confidence for speaking in public – something that a lot of them will encounter as they move to secondary school and beyond. As the children delivered their speeches, it didn’t feel like they were just 9 or 10 year olds, it felt like they were much more mature and grown up. Philosophy isn’t just about asking big questions but also about putting your point across in well-reasoned manner. I am excited to see how the children’s learning from today is shown in our future time together this year.
Thanks for reading about all our adventures – we had so much to say! But don’t forget, you can teach your children to be persuasive speakers and share this experience by teaching this enquiry to your class too! Download ‘The Escape’ Enquiry Pack by clicking the link below, or you can download the entire Delphi the Philosopher scheme by clicking here!
Until next time, thanks for reading!
(Explicit consent has been obtained to publish the photos and videos on this website. Do not copy or replicate these in any way. Many thanks to parents/carers for their support and to Mrs Hegedus and Miss Kasia, TA superstars, for taking the photos.)