One good way to find out if a person understands the concept or thing they are talking about is to ask them to define it in their own words. Sometimes asking for a definition will direct the listener to a new word the speaker actually means to relate, and sometimes understanding the speaker's definition will clarify and deepen the listener's understanding.
Asking a child to provide a definition in his or her own words can be very beneficial for a parent or teacher in a couple of circumstances. During a disagreement or emotional outburst, it can help the adult understand what a child is really feeling. In a school assignment, it can help identify if the child is thinking about the lesson or simply mimicking the original text.
If a child can not define the word, ask them to define what the word is not. In preliteracy skills, knowing what a word is not can be just as helpful as knowing what it is. This is one reason books for young children focus heavily on opposites.
Even in a discussion between adults, a pause to clarify any one person's use of a word can help deepen understanding and connection.
I often find that our individual perception of words, especially non-nouns, are like snowflakes or fingerprints. No two people will define the same word in the same way.
writing exercise: Without using a dictionary, define "hope." Include an antonym.
Click "read more" to see writercizer sample response.writercizer response:
hope: a positive association towards the future, often rooted in faith and trust, in which a person envisions his/her wants and needs coming to fruition at a later date(antonym: doubt, despair)