EDU 6526- Identifying Similarities and Differences

Strategies for comparing, classifying, metaphors, and analogies have been proven to be highly beneficial to deeper learning. According to Dean et al. (2012), these strategies for identifying similarities and differences, “move students from existing knowledge to new knowledge, concrete to abstract, and separate to connected ideas” (p. 119). However, the caveat to the effectiveness of these strategies is that students need to be taught each strategy, have repeated opportunities for guided practice, receive scaffolding, and be provided with relevant modeling.
I plan to use Venn Diagrams with early primary students as an entry point to comparing. Last academic year, my mentor and I implemented Venn Diagrams into the morning message one or two times a week. Dean et al. (2012) stress that identification and comparison methods must include prior knowledge to enable students to focus on the new process, while relieving students of being distracted with new content. By implementing Venn Diagrams as a regular practice during the morning message activity, students have repeated practice with a new learning strategy that is rooted in familiar topics and a familiar routine. During morning meeting, students engaged in an insightful guided discussion regarding the diagram. Students would make observations in response to the teacher’s cues and, in turn, develop the skill of comparing subjects. Dean et al. (2012) recommends starting with a Venn diagram to teach basic comparing skills, and then graduating to a more complex comparison matrix. I am curious as to whether first grade students would be ready to graduate to the comparison matrix mid-way through the year. My cohort mates, Laura and Andrea, who have practical experience with this age feel that this would be an appropriate challenge for first grade students. Of course, as with any new structure and process for finding similarities and differences, the process of comparing two subjects given multiple qualifications would need to be systematically scaffolded. However, I plan to implement the complex comparison matrix if I teach first grade next year because I believe it is a highly effective process that prepares students to compare literature in more advanced grades.
Dean, C. B., Hubble, E. R., Pitler, H. and Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works- 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-1362-6

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