In her memoir, A City Year, Suzanne Goldsmith offers her own definition of the word community:
Communities are not built of friends, or of groups with similar styles and tastes, or even of people who like and understand each other. They are built of people who feel they are part of something that is bigger than themselves: a shared goal or enterprise, like righting a wrong, or building a road, or raising children, or living honorably, or worshipping a god. To build community requires only the ability to see value in others, to look at them and see a potential partner in one’s enterprise.
Goldsmith’s definition raises many interesting questions that can help students refine their understanding of the word community. To be a community, must members like each other? Do communities always serve a purpose? Are those who do not contribute to this purpose still considered members of the community? Goldsmith’s words introduce the idea that being a member of a community comes with responsibilities—members are “partners” in a common “enterprise.”
Curriculum connection: Students can apply this definition of community to cultures they encounter throughout world history. Ask students to identify the shared qualities that give the peoples living along the Euphrates River a sense of community.
Because this quotation contains language and ideas that may challenge students, you may want to use a chunking strategy to help them decode the text. Chunking is a literacy strategy in which students break complicated text into smaller, more manageable sections. After reading the quotation one time through, anticipate the lack of confidence some students may feel that they could ever understand such complex, “grown-up”–sounding text. Reassure students that once they break the quotation down into smaller sections, they can master the language. If this is the first time students have used this strategy, we suggest doing the worksheet together as a class so you can guide students through paraphrasing key ideas.
Teaching note: Chunking is a particularly useful strategy to help students understand excerpts of primary documents. Initially you can chunk the text into smaller sections for students. After students have used this technique a few times, they can chunk the text on their own.