Are you looking for ways to get your kiddos to think critically in your lessons? Try teaching analogies! Analogies get primary kids thinking, analyzing, and making comparisons.
What is an analogy?
An analogy is simply a comparison of two things that are usually thought of as being different, but are similar in some way. They are written in a specific format such as apple : fruit :: carrot : vegetable. It reads: apple is to fruit as carrot is to vegetable.
Why Teach Analogies?
I have taught analogies to my students for years, so I felt validated when I read the research about teaching analogies. In Marzano, Pollock, and Pickering’s book Classroom Instruction That Works, the authors write about 9 instructional strategies that have the greatest effect on student achievement. Similarities and Differences is one of those strategies. When you teach similarities and differences, your students are making comparisons. At the lowest level, these comparisons may be simple sorting activities. But at the highest level, similarities and differences include analogies which is basically reasoning by comparison.
Benefits of Teaching Analogies:
Okay, so teaching analogies improves student achievement. But why? Here are a few reasons:
- help you identify flaws in student thinking – If a student creates an analogy that doesn’t make sense, you can examine it to understand their thinking and correct misconceptions. On the other hand, if they create an analogy that makes sense, they have demonstrated understanding of a concept.
- teach students to use critical thinking and logic skills
- help students analyze relationships of words and ideas. I like to ask primary students how they go together or what they have in common. Examples of relationships are:
- part to whole
- increase vocabulary
- help students understand nuances of language
- help students prepare for standardized tests
Background skills needed to solve analogies
I like to make sure that my students have some experience with sorting activities before I introduce analogies. Sorting helps students learn to categorize things by attributes. Attribute listing in one of the pre-requisites to analogies. You may think your primary kiddos can’t do this, but I assure you, they can!
At a higher level, I like to have students look at a group of objects and tell which one doesn’t belong to the group and why. In this example, the butterfly could not belong because it is not green like the other three items, OR the grass could not belong because it is not an animal. I love giving Which One Doesn’t Belong? questions where there is more than one correct answer. Also, you can ask them to take away the object that doesn’t belong, and add an object that does. For example, take away the butterfly and add a green moray eel, or take away the grass and add another animal that is cold-blooded (if your kiddos could do that), or simply another animal. Once the kids are comfortable with sorting, grouping, and classifying object or pictures, they are ready to be introduced to analogies.
Analogies should be introduced to students as they learn to read. If your students have little experience with classifying and sorting words and objects, you will need to use concrete objects. Have the students tell how they are similar and different. Record their ideas on the board. Next, put them in groups and repeat the activity.
Some easy objects to use are:
- apple and banana
- ball and marble
- cup and glass
- screwdriver and hammers
- shoe and sock
Next, I like to show a PowerPoint so we can complete some analogies as a class.
Focus not only on completing the comparison, but telling why – tell what the comparison is or how the two words are related.
Four Levels of Complexity
When students are just learning analogies, I like to make them multiple choice. This just adds a little bit of support. We will discuss why each possible answer is right or wrong. In the example above, I ask the students how the words frog and croak are related. They will tell me that frogs make a sound called a croak. I then ask them if frogs croak, what do ducks do? The kids will automatically exclude water since that is not something a duck would “do”. So, that leaves us with waddle and quack. But since the sound a frog makes is called a croak, quack would be the answer.
To add more complexity, you can have the students finish the analogy. Example: spider is to 8 as _____________ is to ______________.
The highest level I do with students is to have them complete an analogy and then create an analogy that has the same relationship.
In the example above, we get milk from cows and eggs from hens. So, a new analogy could be sheep is to wool as oyster is to pearl. This is just one example. The kids wouldn’t have to use animals at all. For example, they could say tree is to paper as wheat is to flour because paper comes from trees and flour comes from wheat.
When can you use analogies?
You can use analogies in almost every lesson you teach. They can be used as daily warm-ups, in centers, as a question during a lesson, and as exit tickets.
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