Better than Webster

Inquirers, thinkers, communicators - these are some of the kind of people the International Baccalaureate (or IB) program aims to foster. As a way of getting children to understand and own these attributes, ICS third-grade teacher Sherry Forbes asked her students the other day to come up with their own definitions for these terms.

[Today's blog is from correspondent Lee Lawrence.]

Inquirers, thinkers, communicators - these are some of the kind of people the International Baccalaureate (or IB) program aims to foster. As a way of getting children to understand and own these attributes, ICS third-grade teacher Sherry Forbes asked her students the other day to come up with their own definitions for these terms.

Amid much chatter, teams of two worked on one term each. Heads bent low over pink and blue and green and yellow pieces of paper cut out into balloons. Fingers itched for the markers because one of the rewards of the exercise was to decorate the balloons - but only once they had penned their definition.

Some of the children pulled dictionaries off the shelves. But as much as Miss Sherry (as the children call her) commended them for researching, she made it very clear that she was after their thoughts, not those of the people who had compiled the dictionaries. Sitting on a low chair, she leaned in to see what term two girls were struggling over.

Sprawled on the floor, Dunia and Hannah - one dark haired, the other blonde - had written "danger" and "risk" on their balloon-shaped paper. Their word was "risk-takers," and they seemed a bit stymied.

Miss Sherry bent low. What, she asked them, made them feel that they were taking a risk?

"Saying hello to someone I don't know well," one of them said. Miss Sherry smiled. As stern as the teacher's face can get when displeased - she has a look that would a wrestler cower - she can also look positively sunny when her face breaks out in a smile. It did this when Dunia and Hannah refined their definition and wrote on their balloon that risk-takers were people "who say hello to someone new in school."

Their definition duly decorated with swirls and stick figures is now posted on one of the classroom bulletin boards. On a nearby balloon, Adiato and Doris wrote that thinkers are "people who take ideas out of their heads and act, teach, write and explore."

Webster's could not have said it better.

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