Unit Plan: Teaching Plato’s Allegory

Unit Plan: Day 1

Your School’s Cave: What is the “culture” of your school? 

Visual Thinking: “I See, I Wonder, I Think”.

The Visual Thinking strategy has been renamed somewhat (with my apologies). True wonder comes before thought as should our wondering about the manner of our seeing.

Activity 1: Students are separated into groups and are asked to journey throughout the school and identify things, attitudes, etc. that illustrate the “culture of …” around them. Students return and report to the class. Sense perception, emotion, imagination, reason, memory can be explored as ways of knowing and as modes of interpretation. Students return and are placed in groups to discuss what they have discovered. Statements and assertions of what evidence the students find about what they think their school thinks its culture is can be made. Wonder: What is being said about the “values” of what the IB and the school has determined to be important to it? How are these “values” determined and what human activities are necessary for the making of these values explicit?

Activity 2: The David Foster Wallace speech to the graduates of Kenyon College: “This is Water”. Listen to the speech. There are two parts and both parts should be listened to: https://soundcloud.com/brainpicker/david-foster-wallace-this-is-water-1

What connections can the students make to the culture of their school and the Foster Wallace speech?

Homework Read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. In a journal entry write three possible connections between the allegory and the Foster Wallace speech. Prepare to ask questions and discuss the possible comparisons for next class. Students should compose a drawing of what they think their own caves are like.

Unit Plan Day 2:

“TOK is designed to apply a set of conceptual tools to concrete situations encountered in the student’s Diploma Programme subjects and in the wider world outside school. The course should therefore not be devoted to a technical philosophical investigation into the nature of knowledge.” TOK Guide 2015

Unit One (Part 2): Introducing Plato’s Allegory

Begin by showing the PowerPoint which provides a general introduction to Theory of Knowledge. https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-8nWwYRUyV6VjU4czhVNE1SVms

Four Main Topics:

1: the sort of questions that are asked in TOK (how do we “know” what we “know”? how do we provide explanations of what we know?)

2: the basic assumptions that are involved in how and what we know in the Areas of Knowledge (AoKs) (modern science, the human sciences, history, etc.): the grounds on which these assumptions are based and the limitations of these grounds (the goal of TOK must be to make the implicit assumptions explicit)

3: how we can begin an inquiry into the grounds: reopening the basic questions

4: TOK’s relation to the students’ education and to their future studies

Activity 2: Using Foster Wallace’s metaphor of how our seeing has been ‘hard-wired’ from birth, we will examine the nature of this hard-wiring. We shall do this with a reading of Plato’s allegory of the Cave. Play the video of the allegory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dlmsULpgjI  (You may need to check if the links are still active. If this link is not active, you can find another link that provides the animated version of the allegory). Ask the class what questions they have regarding their reading from their homework and the reading given in the video. Students are usually very puzzled by the reading and video and this is a good sign, not a bad sign. Ask them whether or not they can make any connections to the Foster Wallace speech regarding our ‘hard-wiring from birth’ and the Platonic allegory.

Homework: Students read “Understanding Plato’s Shadows”. Students write a journal reflection relating their understanding of Plato’s allegory to their own cultural exploration and their own drawing of their own caves. How are Plato’s shadows demonstrated in their own lives? Questions they are wondering about should be included in the reflection.


Write a reflection on your own cave. Using the reading passage “Understanding Plato’s Shadows”, note any significant “shadows” that constitute your lives.

Extension: To gain a greater understanding of Plato’s allegory of the Cave, a commentary on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has been provided.

Note: The video may be used to begin the lesson and follow with the PowerPoint or it can be delivered following discussions of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.



Author: theoryofknowledgeanalternativeapproach


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Theory of Knowledge: An Alternative Approach

Why is an alternative approach necessary?

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