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Why are Non-Examples Important in Education?

Why are Non-Examples Important?

Every year when I begin using Frayer Models for vocabulary I have to teach what non-examples are to my students. Students are used to working in a world of creating examples and rationales behind their learning but not defining what their learning isn’t.

What is a Non-Example?

A Non-Example is simply helps define a new term in it’s entirety using the characteristics that are given and determine what the term is not.

Let’s take the word proportional…

Proportion Frayer Model

Based on the definition and characteristics given by my students it is very easy to see that to create something that is proportional both sides must be equivalent. As you can see in creating a non-example the students created a proportion that did not become equal when cross-multiplied.

Starting lessons with examples and non-examples helps to build a foundation and clear up concepts before you get too deep into the learning. When students don’t start with a foundation of what a term or concept is they can continue to focus on that term and miss out on other key material. For my teaching this was a critical comprehension step for many of my students.

While speaking with some other teachers about using Non-Examples in their classrooms I received some great opinions.


As you can see from these teachers, as well as my experiences, using non-examples is something that we need to do in our classrooms. Non-examples don’t always have to be done in the form of a vocabulary definition. Another way to use them is through a concept sort or Venn diagram. What is one thing? What is another thing? Why is it that way? Get students talking about why they think something can be classified in one area and why not in another.

Function Sort
Non-Function Sort

How do you use non-examples in your classroom? Do you struggle with student’s understanding of what something isn’t? Let’s discuss in the comments.

And, if you are looking for further ways to use Examples and Non-Examples in your classroom, check out the Examples and Non-Examples post over at It’s Academic Tutoring Center’s blog as they give some great insight on how using these techniques can help the foundations of learning.

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