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Examples and non-examples

When people are trying to learn something or understand it at a deeper level, one way to do this is to explore and discuss "examples" and "nonexamples" of whatever they're trying to figure out. This can be simple and concrete for things like dogs, or highly intellectual or abstract: just what is "heresy" or "hypocrisy?"

This exercise can also be useful in helping you understand the kinds of questions teachers ask. If a teacher asks you for a definition, but you provide an example, you may provide an excellent example but your teacher may be disappointed in your answer. On the other hand, if you provide a definition (as described in yesterday's activities) and an example and a non-example, your teacher may well be highly impressed!

Picking examples and non-examples can be done well or poorly. Good examples and nonexamples are ones that help clear up someting you might confuse. An opposite is often a good "nonexample" -- but so is something that is close to what you're defining, but still not fitting the definition.

On the other hand, if you say that a pillow is a "nonexample" of a dog, you're really not helping a lot. Ask yourself: what is it that makes this thing a "dog?" What might seem to be a dog (to someone who did not know), but isn't? Why?

Examples of good examples and nonexamples!

Here is an example of using "examples" and "nonexamples" to help make a meaning clear for the word "tactful."

Example of "tactful" -- "Stanley, I'm not sure people will be able to understand what you said here." A tactful statement is one which is meant to be gentle on the feelings of the person hearing it, even though it is not a positive coment.

Another example of "tactful" -- "Stanley, I think we need to work on how you organized your essay." This is tactful because it does not call the writing or Stanley bad, but suggests a way to make the writing better.

Nonexample of "tactful" -- "Stanley, this disorganized, sloppy writing leaves me in abject confusion!" That is not tactful because the words are very negative.

Another nonexample of "tactful" -- "Stanley, this is absolutely the best writing I have ever seen!" -- No tact is necessary here because the comments are positive.

A bad "nonexample" of "tactful" -- "Have some spinach." This is totally unrelated to how someone would react emotionally to what you say, and the word "tactful" is all about people's feelings.

Your Turn :) For each idea below, give two examples and two non-examples.

Pick two of your answers and explain why the examples are examples, and why the "nonexamples" don't fit the definition.

1. Bird

2. lifeless

3. Food

4. port

5. rejection

6. portable

7. transportation

For Harry Potter readers:

1. Muggle

2. Ghost

3. A friend of Harry's

4. An act of bravery




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