There is no limit to the places and times one can use the 5 Common Topics to contemplate ideas or to have discussions with anyone about anything! If you’re new to the 5 Common Topics, it might be easiest to start with a single, concrete noun. We were at the beach last week, so let’s start there.
What is an ocean?
A large body of salt water.
To what broad category does ocean belong?
Body of water. Biome. Geographical feature.
What is another body of water? (Or biome. Or geographical feature. Or something else. Compare any number of things.)
How are an ocean and a river similar?
They are bodies of water. They have currents. They are geographical features on earth. Plants and animals live in them. They are part of the water cycle, and smaller bodies of water feed into them. They are used for transportation. Civilizations have grown up near them. They are often used as recreational areas.
How are they different?
Oceans are made of salt water. Rivers are fresh water. Rivers can irrigate crops and water livestock.
Oceans are much larger than rivers. Different plants and animals live in them.
Oceans have tides and are affected by the moon. Rivers flow continuously in one direction.
How are a river and an ocean related? (Or any other two things. Antecedent/consequence and cause/effect.)
Rivers flow into oceans (oceans do not flow into rivers). Water cycle.
(When and where questions work well here--geographical and historical context, specific or general.)
Where are the oceans? How many are there? What are they named?
What has happened on the oceans and when? Who has used them for what?
Exploration. Transportation. Wars. Commerce. Scientific research and discovery.
Magellan’s crew circumnavigated the world via oceans in the 1500s…
When were they discovered/identified/defined/mapped?
When were they created and how?
Who or what has something to say about oceans?
Science? The Bible? Literature? Explorers? Quotes or Proverbs? Poets? Deep-sea divers or treasure hunters? Laws of nature?
[authorities, testimonials, statistics, laws, maxims, precedents…]
Are these reliable authorities? Why or why not?
[Clearly, the further you move down the list of topics, the more in-depth (and endless) the conversation can become. I shared a few specific questions and even fewer answers just as examples. You may want to argue with some of my examples. Feel free. That’s part of the discussion! Or come up with your own questions and answers.]
If you are interested in reading more posts about the 5 Common Topics, give these a try:
- Discussing a picture book
- Discussing The Secret Garden
- Discussing Crispin
- Using comparison to discuss Hamlet
- Using comparison to discuss movies
- Discussing the word “leisure”
If you want to learn more about the history of the 5 Common Topics and how to integrate them across subjects within the curriculum, I highly recommend reading The Question by Leigh Bortins.