I was teaching the story When Charlie McButton Lost Power to a third-grade class in Mesquite, Texas. The curricular objective was for students to recognize the main idea and supporting details in narrative text. I used a simile as an instructional tool. I told the students that a main idea and details are like a table and legs. Just like the legs hold up the table, so do the details support the main idea. We drew a table with four legs on the dry-erase board. We concluded that the main idea from the story was that Charlie was upset when he lost power. I wrote that on the top of the table. Then I had students go back to the text and find evidence that Charlie was upset. They filled in their examples on the legs of the table. Because third-graders understood the concept of a table and legs, they now also understood the concept of a main idea and details.
Of all the 20 strategies, this one is probably one of the most effective. Because the brain is a maker of meaning, it is constantly searching for connections and patterns. Students can understand many new and complicated concepts when those concepts are compared to dissimilar ones that the students already know and understand.
What The Research Says
“The hardware for making metaphors may be in-born, the software is earned and learned through living” (Popova, 2015).
Metaphors, in general, elicit emotional responses from the brain, which provide a rhetorical advantage when people communicate with one another (Kelly, 2014).
Teachers who give students analogies when providing explanations have students who are capable of conceptualizing complex ideas (Posamentier & Jaye, 2006).
Make It Happen
- To introduce the concept of a simile, read aloud the book I’m as Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood. Read it the first few times simply for enjoyment. Then have students think of ways they are like animals. Help them write a story using the following pattern: I’m as _____ as a _____. Compile their stories into a class book.
- To understand that history repeats itself, help students connect current events to similar events that happened in the past. For example, students could compare the most recent recession with the Great Depression that occurred years earlier. Have them use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast how the two periods are alike and how they are different. Consult strategy 5 for a model of a Venn diagram.
- Regardless of the content area, students should engage in Glynn’s TWA (teaching with analogies) approach by using the following procedure:
- Introduce the concept to be learned.
- Review a familiar but similar concept through the use of analogy.
- Identify the features of both the new and known concepts.
- Explain what both concepts have in common.
- Explain how the new concept is different from the known. (At this point the analogy breaks down.)
- Draw conclusions regarding the major ideas that students need to remember about the new concept (Glynn, 1996).
For more examples of instructional activities that engage the brain, consult the 3rd edition of my best-selling book, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.