Definition by example

One of the classic writing strategies I’m sure we’re teaching the kids is definition by example. Even if you can’t define a concept in so many words, you can always give examples of the concept, and that way your reader gets the idea.

I think we can tackle our problem at hand (What is the role of the media center/specialist in the GPS curriculum?) in a kind of reverse order definition by example, an inductive reasoning process where we go from a particular performance standard to a set of generalized principles which we can apply to the entire curriculum.

Where to begin? Let’s take the 3rd grade social studies standards, a small cluster of them. If you don’t already have your own copy, download it at (In checking the link just now, I find that there’s now a side-by-side comparison of the social studies QCCs and GPSs, but soc studs are the only ones to have that at the moment. Good work, DOE!)

Here’s the second of the history standards (the first is the infamous ancient Greece one, not as bad as everyone fears):

SS3H2 The student will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights and freedoms in a democracy.

a. Paul Revere (independence), Frederick Douglass (civil rights), Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights), Mary McLeod Bethune (education), Franklin D. Roosevelt (New Deal & World War II), Eleanor Roosevelt (United Nations & human rights),Thurgood Marshall (civil rights), Lyndon B. Johnson (Great Society & voting rights), and Cesar Chavez (worker’s rights)
b. explain social barriers, restrictions, and obstacles that thes overcome [sic], and describe how they overcame them

Here’s a geography standard:

SS3G2 The student will describe the cultural and geographic systems associated with the historical figures in SS3H2a.

a. identify specific locations significant to the life and times of these historic figures on a political map
b. describe how place (physical and human characteristics) impacted the lives of these historic figures
c. describe how each of these historic figures adapted to and was influenced by their environment
d. trace examples of travel and movement of these historic figures and their ideas across time
e. describe how the region in which these historic figures lived affected their lives and impacted their cultural identification

Here’s a civics/government standard:

SS3CG2 The student will describe how these historic figures display positive character traits of cooperation, diligence, liberty, justice, tolerance, freedom of conscience and expression, and respect for and acceptance of authority.

Leaving aside for the moment how we’re going to demonstrate respect for and acceptance of authority with the lives of Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt and César Chavez, let’s talk about what the media center could do for a third grade team that is facing this new set of standards.

Ideas, anyone?

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