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Identifying Similarities & Differences

Of all the strategies analyzed in Marzano's study (Marzano, Pickering, and

Pollock, 2001), the strategy of having learners identify similarities and
differences was shown to have the highest potential to enhance student
achievement (with an effect size of 1.61 and a potential percentile gain of 45
points). Activities that require learners to compare, classify and re-classify,
and use metaphors and analogies are powerful means to help them
understand and use knowledge. Tasks that prompt learners to identify
similarities and differences, as cited by Marzano, Pickering and Pollock
(2001), include:
Creating metaphors Creating analogies
Comparing is the process of identifying and articulating similarities and
differences among items and by necessity, it involves the identification of
important characteristics. Comparison can be enhanced by providing
examples and non- examples that illustrate the presence and absence of
these characteristics. For example, when studying the poetic form of free
verse, learners should read and hear plenty of examples of free verse and
non-examples (bound and blank verse, prose, etc.) to distinguish the
essential characteristics. Emphasize to the learner that the purpose of
comparing is to extend and refine their understanding of the topic being
studied. You should model the process of identifying items and characteristics
that are meaningful and interesting.
When learners classify, they group things into definable categories on the
basis of their attributes. Re-classifying (providing a grouping of items and
requiring learners to re-group based on different criteria) is another valuable
strategy for helping them make conceptual connections. For example,
providing a grouping of land and sea animals and then asking them to regroup based on whether they lay eggs or bear live young will help them make
new distinctions (such as mammals versus fish and amphibians) and
connections. Venn diagrams (discussed in more detail in the section on nonlinguistic representations) are excellent tools for the task of classifying and reclassifying. Here are some classification ideas for different subject areas:
English genre characteristics, poetry, types of fiction
Math whole numbers, fractions, negative numbers, geometrical figures
Science habitat, endangered animals, geographical location, adaptation
Social Studies human, economic and capital resources
A metaphor is a figure of speech or expression that is used to compare two
seemingly unrelated subjects. Unlike a simile or analogy, a metaphor asserts
that one thing is another thing, not just that one is like another. Creating
metaphors involves identifying and articulating the underlying theme or
general pattern in information and then finding another topic that appears to

be quite different but has the same general pattern. Using metaphors helps
learners connect fact fragments into meaningful wholes. Examples of
metaphors include, He was drowning in money, Life is just a bowl of
cherries, That new worker is pretty green," "One's life ripens with
experience, Instructional strategies are onions, America is freedom and
promise, The graph of the sine function is a roller coaster, Writing is a
process, The cell is a factory. Bernice McCarthy says, thinking in
metaphors engages the imagination in ways that go both to the inside of
things (their essence) and to the outside of things (their impact in the world)....
Metaphors make connections from the known to the unknown, from the
familiar to the unfamiliar...they are image-directed, rather than recall-directed,
and as such are powerful leads to essence (McCarthy, 2000, p. 102). She
goes on to provide this exercise with images for thinking in metaphors (the
first two are completed for the reader):
Be a bridge lead people to a new side
Be a lantern help light the way
Be rain
Be a tree
Be a bud
Be a beach
Be a blanket
Be the earth
Be a garden
Be a mountain
Be a circle
(McCarthy, 2000, p. 102)
Creating analogies involves the process of identifying relationships between
pairs of concepts, identifying relationships between relationships. Analogies
can help learners make the connections or see the relationships between
things that are very different. In addition, successful completion of analogy
problems is a requirement on standardized tests in several states. Design
your analogies to help learners understand abstract concepts by presenting
the concept in terms of something the learners can visualize. Whenever
possible, discuss the limitations of the analogy you are using.
The pattern is:
A:B::C:D, readasAistoBasCistoD
For example, chick: hen :: kid: goat, would be read a chick is to a hen, as a
kid is to a goat.