One of the great ways to form questions and encourage great conversation is through the use of the Topic of Definition. When we come to any idea, there are important and key terms wrapped up in that idea. Getting the conversants all on the same page with their definitions is no small task, and spurs great discussion. Just taking one example, that of arguing for the hero in The Iliad, we find ourselves first having to define what a hero is. This could take some time as it is a large idea. That is why it is helpful to teach students that a definition has two interlinking sub-parts: the Genus and the species. The general class of things that any one thing belongs to is that thing’s genus. This is very valuable for a student to learn about most ideas – to what is this idea connected? Another helpful thing to do with defining a term is state the specific acts or adjectives that when collected, make up the genus. These are called the species.
Teaching students to define their terms is basic to good thinking, conversation, and especially to good writing. Be sure our students evidence clarity over their use of terms. Make them define the key terms in any assertion they make in class. Teach our students to stand by their words.