The instructional strategy of identifying similarities and differences is considered by many to be the “core” of all learning (Marzano, Pickering, Pollock, 2001). The identification of similarities and differences can be accomplished in many different ways but research has indicated four which are highly effective. These four methods are comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies (Marzano et al., 2001). For this entry, I will focus on the first two methods of comparing and classifying as I feel that both aspects are effective and common methods used in an elementary classroom setting.
Comparing is the process of identifying the similarities and differences between things or even among ideas. The key to this method is the student’s ability to identify the important characteristics. Ultimately these characteristics will be used as the basis for their comparisons. From this students will be able to classify the things or ideas by grouping the items that are alike into categories based on their characteristics. When students begin to classify objects, they must first have a firm grasp of the rules that govern class or category membership (Marzano et al., 2001). The combination of using both comparing and classifying is an effective method to engage and teach students to use their own knowledge.
A simple fourth grade lesson plan on comparing and classifying could be about animals – specifically vertebrates and invertebrates. The key comparison characteristic of the two categories is whether or not they have a backbone. Students will figure out from prior knowledge or research that vertebrates are animals with backbones and invertebrates have no backbones. From this understanding, students will then be able to classify animals from their own knowledge into categories of vertebrates and invertebrates. Furthermore, students can classify the main category into subgroups. For example vertebrates can be classified into fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Similarly, invertebrates can be classified into mollusks, worms, arthropods, and cnidarians. This activity will require students to compare and classify through using their own prior knowledge while making even more detailed distinctions.
Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instructions that works: research based instruction for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD