Surprise Scholé Academy

Five Common Topics

The Five Common Topics

Aristotle's Five Common Topics are the idea tool for teaching any subject. Each topic should be deeply explored through asking appropriate questions in the classroom, invoking rich student led discussion. 

1. Definition

Define your terms. Students cannot understand it if they don't know what it is. 

Students should make observations and answer questions such as: Who/what is it? What kind of person/thing is it? What is it made of? How is it used? What group does the person/thing belong to? What is it not? What are the persons/things qualities or characteristics?

2. Comparison

Now that you have defined the terms, take a minute to compare them. You may use the following questions: How is the person/thing the same as someone else or something else? To what degree are they the same? How is the person/thing different from something or someone else? To what degree are they different? Is it better or worse?

3. Circumstance

Determine the circumstances surrounding the terms. Discuss how it is connected to the rest of the world. This is a great time to weave in history, context and current events. This process may include asking the following questions: Where are they/it? Who/what else is there? What is happening? At the same time, what is happening someplace else? Who is interested? What is the best choice?

4. Relationship

Now that the student has discussed how the person or thing is connected 

to the world, it is time to determine its relationship with the world. This may involve 

asking: What happened before? What will happen next? What are the conditions? What 

is the outcome or consequences?

5. Authority

The last topic involves determining the authority. How can the student 

discover truth? Students may examine the following: Are there personal testimonies? What is assumed? What laws or rules apply? Are there witnesses? The students can also express their own level of “authority' when they share what they have learned with others. 

Please note that the depth and quality of discussion will vary based on age and ability. However, every age can engage in the Five Common Topics in some capacity.