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Defining Terms

This support material is incorporated into critical challenges at grades 6, 9 and 11, however, it can be adapted for use at all grade levels.

The following document can be adapted and re-saved for your needs.

Generating Definitions Word
This chart helps students develop tentative definitions of various terms on a common topic and to refine their definitions after receiving additional support or clues.

To use this chart, students:

  • list the words to be defined in the left-hand column
  • develop tentative definitions for each term using the following strategies to decode the meaning:

    • look at the parts of each word
    • recognize already known parts and think of the meaning
    • think of an example of an action or event depicted by each word
  • share their tentative definitions with other students
  • refine the tentative definitions, as necessary, to ensure that each definition satisfies the following criteria:

    • accurately represents the meaning of the term
    • is concise
    • clearly explains the term for all to understand.

To meet the diverse needs of students, consider providing supporting examples, clues or a sentence in which the term is used.


Adapted from Critical Challenges Across the Curriculum series.  Permission granted by The Critical Thinking Consortium for use by Alberta teachers.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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