Identifying similarities and differences is one of the high yield strategies identified in Classroom Instruction that Works (Marzano, Pickering and Pollock) and addressed in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski). Two variations of this strategy need to be considered.
Teachers need to begin with very structured tasks to help students understand the approach and assure their ability to use this strategy to extend their knowledge. Teacher-directed activities can incorporate a great deal of discussion and interaction. This approach is useful when there are key facts every student should grasp.
As students become proficient at identifying similarities and differences, the task can evolve to more open ended activities that support divergent thinking and allow students to add independent observations.
At any phase of implementation, graphic organizers are a great way to structure activities where students identify similarities and differences. An internet search will return a long list of sites offering graphic organizers for classroom use. Many textbooks and training manuals offer a variety of organizer choices. These resources provide a variety of basic diagrams. But how can we grow past the basics?
Fortunately, our school system has provided Kidspiration and/or Inspiration licenses for each school. Training for these programs is also available. The challenge is moving these software products from available to utilized.
Here's another challenge. Students don't have Kidspiration or Inspiration on their home computers. Organizers can be created and printed for offline use but computer active tasks have to be completed at school.
What if we add a new tool to our Microsoft Word training agenda? The drawing toolbar in Word offers lots of shapes, lines and connectors that can be used to create graphic organizers. Office clipart collections can also be accessed to include images.
Add your ideas for supporting the development of classroom activities that enhance learning by having students identify similarities and differences.
Let's rethink the possibilities.