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Researchers have determined that strategies that have students looking for similarities and differences between and among items result in some of the greatest performance gains (Classroom Instruction That Works, Dean, et al, 2013). Among the ways that students can look at similarities and differences is through creating and explaining analogies. This blog post will explain what analogies are, how they reveal a deep understanding in students, and some ways to help incorporate working with analogies into independent practice opportunities throughout your curriculum.
What is an Analogy?
An analogy is a comparison between two things that are similar in some way, often used to help explain something or make it easier to understand. In an analogy, the student must determine the way in which two things are related, and extend the comparison to two additional items similarly related. Those of us who have taken the SAT are familiar with this device:
Water:snow::lava:_____
This device is customarily read, “Water is to snow as lava is to ____.” This means that water and snow are related to one another, in the same way that lava and _____ are related. In order to accurately complete the analogy, the student must first determine the specific relationship between water and snow, and then apply that to lava.
The Bridge Map: A Thinking Map ®
We know that all bodies of information, and all thought processes, have their own “shape.” That is to say, there is a pictorial way to represent ideas, processes and functions that is not constrained by words, and is easier for learners of all ages to understand. Not only are these graphical representations easier to comprehend, but they also instruct the student regarding the overall structure of the information relayed. David Hyerle developed Thinking Maps ® as a way to simplify the graphical way that learners represent different cognitive processes. In his system, there are only eight “maps” needed to explain the different thought processes that humans use to process information.
Representing an analogy using a bridge map.
When creating and extending analogies, students could use the traditional device with which we adult testtakers are familiar, but the device requires that the learner is a reader, and, therefore, excludes its use by young children, second language learners, or struggling readers. A nonlinguistic way to accomplish the same thing is the bridge map.
An extended version of the same bridge map.
The bridge map, extended, can be viewed at right.
Once students see two pairs of items, they can determine the relationship between items in each pair, which is represented by the line between the items:
“Water is the liquid form of snow, as lava is the liquid form of rock…”
Using Bridge Maps in a Learning Center
There are four main ways that students can work with bridge maps in an independent learning center. Using a combination of all the ways ensures that students understand the entire concept of analogies.
 What’s My Rule?
 Complete the Analogy
 Extend the Analogy
 Create an Analogy
For illustration purposes, let’s use something easy to understand, geometric figures, to explain these four different learning tasks.
The Basic Learning Center Design
I always like to use a chunk of bulletin board space for learning centers, so that students can manipulate items as they work collaboratively. Alternatively, a table top can be used (especially if you are working with realia as the items in the analogous pairs).
Other Materials:
 A large copy of a bridge map (for bulletin board or table top) [See Note]
 Photographs, drawings or real objects to use in analogous pairs
 Index cards or sentence strips with words to use in analogous pairs
 Blank cards or sentence strips to complete or extend the analogy
 Markers
 Student copies of individual bridge map worksheets
 A finished work basket
NOTE: When creating a frame to be used over and over again in a center, consider reproducing it on heavier paper or cardstock, then laminating it. Use hook and loop dots to attach items to the frame, and store materials in zipperstyle plastic bags.
See the diagram, below, for an example of how the basic center layout might look.
Version 1: “What’s My Rule?”
 Students can examine a teacherprepared bridge map to determine the “rule.”
Use the basic format (shown above). Use photos, realia, or words to complete one bridge map section. Provide sentence strips for students to write the “rule,” or relationship between pairs of items. The relationship between one pair MUST be the same relationship between all pairs in a given map!
To check their work, students place their “rule” strip on the horizontal line between pairs. The sentence must be true. If it is, then they check the remaining pairs. If the sentences are all true, then they can conclude that the relationship is one possible “rule” for this set of items.
Version 2: “Complete the Analogy”
Teachers can prefill some parts of the bridge map, and students can complete the analogy.
Use the basic format, as before. Use photos, realia, or words to partially fill in one bridge map section. Provide index cards and markers, or images, or sources of images, for students to complete the analogy. If providing images and words, provide a variety, so that some complete the analogy and some don’t, and so that students may visit the center more than once. Then provide blank bridge maps for students to record their work, and state their rule.
Hints:
 Provide resources for students to research the topic
 Keep sets of related items in labeled baggies for future use
Version 3: “Extend the Analogy”
This example of an analogy center uses real objects instead of word cards. In the example, below, students must correctly determine the “rule” (relationship) between the top and bottom of the bridge map, then use that rule to extend the analogy. NOTE: For this particular example, there is a very specific rule (“If an isosceles triangle is spun around its vertical line of symmetry, you get a cone.”). Watch out for students who only look shallowly at the relationship (e.g., they put a 3D “diamond” under the parallelogram), because they are missing the specific relationship between the top and bottom items (i.e., the 2D form is spun around a line of symmetry, so the resulting 3D form cannot possibly have all those “edges.”).
Provide attribute blocks and 3D geometric figures or real objects of those shapes, to help students to visualize. Then provide materials for them to affix the 3D object to the map. As before, give them the organizer sheet to record their thinking.
Students can use real objects to complete and extend analogies.
Version 4: “Create an Analogy”
In this example, students use real objects from the classroom to create nets, paper models of 3dimensional objects which, when cut out and folded, form the 3D shapes of the original items. You will also notice that the board space is divided so each group has a portion as a workspace.
Collect a number of classroom items and display them at the center. Provide paper, writing tools and scissors, and allow students to work individually or in pairs to create 2D representations of the objects, or nets. Students create the analogy by mounting the net, over the real object, and stating the rule: “_____ is the net form of _____.”
Copies of the nets can be provided by teams below each analogous pair, so that their classmates can check the accuracy of their work (i.e., classmates can construct the 3D figures from the nets to determine if they do, in fact, create the shape of the original object).
Students can be given a rule and create the analogy.
Other Ideas Using Analogies:
These are just a few ways that analogies can be used in a learning center. Here are a few more… see if you can think of others (the words in bold describe the relationship [“rule”] between the items in italics):
 Hardware and human joints: “An elbow works like a hinge.”
 Tiles and tessellations: “This design is a tessellation of this tile.”
 Form and function: “A bird’s tail steers like a plane’s wing flaps.”
 Organelles and parts of a factory: “The mitochondria work as the cell’s power plants.”
 Seed dispersal and package transport: “Dandelion seeds move like air drops from a plane.”
Next Steps… and Sharing!
Please do try out analogies in your classroom. And share your ideas via our Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Happy analogies!
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