Sunday, September 27, 2009

Similarities & Differences Part 2

At Friday's professional learning day 550 teachers, K-12, spent the morning going deeper with the what, why, and how of using "Similarities & Differences" as a continued instructional strategy. We reviewed the research and spent a lot of time talking about our own applications. Elementary teachers created a gallery walk of lessons, and secondary teachers shared successful strategies from their classes.

Why is explict teaching of similarities and differences critical for the learning brain?  And why does it work from kindergarten to calculus?  In The Strategic Teacher (ASCD, 2008), Silver, Strong, and Perini write:
  1. The use of comparisons increases our memory capacity. Two ideas linked together last longer than two ideas standing alone.
  2. Comparisons let us use old knowledge to make sense of new knowledge.
  3. Comparisons help us find connections and create new ideas.
  4. Comparisons make the invisible (or abstract) visible, the confusable (or easily mixed up with other content) clear, and the neglectable (or easily overlooked) unavoidable.
Gina, grade 4/5, reminded us that graphic organizers alone do not "teach" this strategy. Gina requires her students to add a conclusion statement to any graphic organizer they're using. Why does this work? It allows students to move from part to whole and synthesize their thinking and helps move their learning into long-term memory. And it requires them to make their thinking visible by communicating in writing.

We left the morning session with lots to process and try out. Here are some of the teacher resources from the workshop to add to our repetoire.

For teachers:

The Strategic Teacher: Selecting the Right Research-Based Strategy for Every Lesson by Silver, Strong, and Perini (ASCD, Paperback, 2008). See chapter 5 on compare and contrast and chapter 10 on metaphor.

Taking the Angst Out of Analogies from

IMS (Instructional Management System) on the Ohio Department of Ed site: Similarities & Differences.

Graphic Organizers galore from Holt Rinehart Winston. Remember to always add a conclusion/synthesis section.

And just for fun, I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like by Mardy Grothe (Harper, Hardcover, 2008).

For students:

Picture books using metaphor
Bang, Molly. 1998. When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry
Carlstrom, Nancy White. 1991. Goodbye Geese
Chall, Marsha Wilson. 1992. Up North at the Cabin
Gregory, Valiska. 1991. Through the Mickle Woods
Martin, Rafe. 1992. The Rough-Face Girl
Mathews, Sally Schofer. 1991. The Sad Night: The Story of an Aztec Victory and Spanish Loss
Paterson, Katherine. 1991. The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks
Thomas, Joyce Carol. 1993. Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea
Van Allsburg, Chris. 1986. The Stranger
Yolen, Jane. 1968. Greyling; 1987. Owl Moon; 1992. Encounter

Picture books that use simile
Goble, Paul. 1982. The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
Johnston, Tony. 1996. The Wagon
Lorbiecki, Marybeth. 1996. Just One Flick of a Finger
Sheldon, Dyan. 1991. The Whales’ Song
Turner, Ann Warren. 1987. Nettie’s Trip South
Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon

Why does this matter and what can we do?
  • Students benefit by having similarities and differences pointed out by the teacher in an explicit manner. This can include rich discussion and inquiry, but allows students to focus on the relationhship or bridge to the new ideas.
  • Students also benefit when teachers ask them to create their own strategies for identifying similarities and differences. (Source: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory)
Wrote one Holly Hill teacher at the end of the day, "I can assimilate these concepts more overtly in my classroom. Step by step."

What is working for you in explicity teaching students to make connections? Share with us and we'll post your successes.

See also Similarities & Differences Part 1

The Wordle ( was created from teachers' synthesis after our August professional learning session.

1 comment:

  1. M.E. I appreciated the time this morning. I really like the resources we are providing for teachers. I also am looking forward to purchasing "The Strategic Teacher."