Understanding Maxims Helps Clarify Personal Values Back »

Quotes and Reflection

Using maxims is a wonderful way to stretch youth minds to develop critical thinking. By definition a maxim is a general truth, fundamental principle or rule of conduct. As youth reflect upon the meanings of maxims they will also be clarifying their values. As Educators, Youth Organizers and Volunteers we must challenge youth to apply these maxims to their own lives – with friends and family at home, at school, and at work.

For years educators, philosophers and practitioners have promoted reflection, otherwise known as debriefing, processing or reviewing, as an essential part of learning.

4-H includes reflection in its educational opportunities by using the Experiential Learning Model. The Experiential Learning Model is a three-step process:

  • Do – experience the activity;
  • Reflect – what happened and what’s important
  • Apply – learn about self and apply to own life.

Reflection is included in the Reflect and Apply steps of the model. For learning to take place and for the transfer of learning to occur, the complete cycle is necessary.

Through recent brain-based research we have scientific proof that including time for reflection based on a variety of techniques will facilitate learning, (Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Eric Jensen, 1998, 2005). Educators, Youth Organizers and Volunteers play a role in guiding youth to reflect on their experience.

Prior to Maxim Activities

Before assigning a maxim-based activity have a general discussion with youth about quotes by using a few of your favorites. Help them to understand a maxim is a general truth, fundamental principle or rule of conduct. Not every quote is a maxim. By definition a quote is a quotation from text or speech. Then, lead them through the Experiential Learning Model questions to provide a foundation for them on how to examine a quote to live by for their life.

View Quotes to Live By Wise and Enduring Truths Maxim Activity Ideas for activity ideas.

To have your 4th, 7th or 9th Grade youth participate in the SD 4-H Quotes to Live By Essay Contest, contact the Aberdeen Regional Center (605.626.2870) for the Official Contest Packet.

Experiential Learning Model Process

Do: Have students read the quotes you have selected. For each quote ask the following questions.

Reflect Questions:

  1. What are the most important ideas and values expressed in the quote?
  2. Is the quote making a comparison? What is it comparing?
  3. Does the quote contain symbolism? What could the symbolism represent? Does something stand for something else?
  4. Does knowing more background information about who, when and where it was said make any difference in what the quote means to you?
  5. What do you think could have been going on in the speaker’s life when he/she said this?
  6. What do you know about the speaker that might give you a clue about why he/she said this?
  7. Why do you suppose this quotation is famous or at least notable?
  8. What is the key word in this quotation?
  9. What do you think this quotation means?


  1. Give a “real life” example of what this quote is about.
  2. If this quote doesn’t apply to you directly, what kind of person or situation would it apply to?
  3. How would the world be different if everyone lived by this quotation?
  4. How would the world be different if no one lived by this quotation?
  5. Can you see yourself thinking of this quotation in a certain situation? Would it change how you act?
  6. Can you think of a situation when this quote would not be good advice?
  7. Does this quote describe how things really are in the world, how they should be or somewhere in between?
  8. Is there something you can learn from this quote about how you should live your life?
  9. How would you rewrite this quotation?
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