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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Building on How the Brain Works - Teaching by Analogy!

      On Tuesday of this week, we met for our last session of the EDU 590.  We looked at how the brain works and how we can maximize these processes for our students' learning of strategies and academic information.  Analogy is based on how the brain learns new information - by recognizing how the new is alike and unlike the old.  Much reseach has been published on this process and how it is embedded in our thinking.  Jim B., a social studies teacher at Mt. Blue, used this process during a lesson in November when he had students categorize shoes and talk about possible groupings.  He built on this concept throughout his lesson.

During our conversation, Sherry H. a science teacher at Jay H.S., discussed how she uses analogies to teach science.  Following are her reflections on her experience as well as an outline for helping students create understanding through analogy.  Thank you, Sherry.

     "After modeling analogies for my students, I asked them to create analogies when we were studying cell structure.  I found myself becoming the 'analogy police' because students' responses reflected incomplete thinking regarding the selection and more importantly, the justification, for their analogies.  I was getting for example, agreement with the statement 'A cell is like a balloon' that was expressed like this: 'Yes, it holds in air.'
       While this may have made some sense to the student, it didn't reflect the thinking they did to get there, and doesn't show an attempt to connect to the new concept.  To deal with this, I created a list of steps the students had to use when writing an analogy. 
     Additional instruction also included that they must write COMPLETE sentences and IT was never to be the subject of a sentence. 
     I've attached the list of steps that I gave them.  Keep in mind it was used with a training activity where the students were choosing prepared analogies.  They later moved on to creating their own."

Directions for “Is It Like It or Not?”

1. Choose an analogy that you agree with.

2. Pick out the analog (familiar thing) and the science concept (new learning).

3. Read and THINK about the statement.

4. Consider all the ways you can compare the two things.

5. Choose a shared characteristic of the two things.

6. Write two sentences: one that describes that shared characteristic in the analog, and another that describes the shared characteristic in the science concept.

Here’s an example:

The analogy statement is “The heart is like a pump”. 
The analog is the pump.  The biology concept is the heart.
The shared characteristic is the ability to move liquids from one place to another.
The two sentences you would write are

            The heart moves blood around the body.
            A pump moves water, oil or some other material from one location to another.

7. Make your analogy stronger.  Look at your sentences to see if you can add any what, where, how, or why information to it.

Thanks again, Sherry.  

We invite everyone to try it out and let us know how it worked.


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