Metaphors and Analogies are powerful learning tools because they can be a ” bridge between the known and unknown” and act as cognitive catalysts or “spark plugs” to help generate novel insights, increase comprehension of abstract concepts and improve creativity. For neurological reasons related to brain development, teen-agers are able to think analogically but not with the same fluency, frequency or accuracy as adults, so students need to see adults model analogical thinking and have opportunities to practice, critique and create their own analogies.
The Eide Neurolearning Blog is a regular read for me and the authors, two brain researchers, had this to say on the topic of analogies in the classroom:
“In the figure, its clear that children are able to activate many brain regions to identify different relationships between information, but they are less able to integrate the information, and so the picture of a child knowing lots of information, but missing the forest for the trees, is a normal part of development, and not “ADD”.Dunbar lab: “Analogy is a basic human reasoning process used in science, literature, art, education, and politics. Analogy can be used to make predictions, provide explanations, and restructure our knowledge. Analogy is also used to influence public opinion, fight battles, win wars, start and finish relationships…”
Analogical reasoning is important for virtually all inventive or creative work:
From the the Dunbar lab: “Analogy is a basic human reasoning process used in science, literature, art, education, and politics. Analogy can be used to make predictions, provide explanations, and restructure our knowledge. Analogy is also used to influence public opinion, fight battles, win wars, start and finish relationships…”
“Analogy is properly the domain of higher order thought because it requires fluency – lots of ideas – and integration across multiple representations. Analogy is also more simply thought of as flexible pattern recognition, the process involved in all those good things that should be emphasized in education – critical thinking and deduction, inference, and solutions by insight”
As an example of analogical reasoning, here are two I am going to use tomorrow as a Daily Board Question with the students; the first analogy is easy and the second one is more complex:
1. ” How was the Great Depression like the depression of a person?”
2. “Why can we say that FDR’s New Deal was like an Extra-Large Pizza ?”
Stock Speculator On Margin Stock Market Wall St. Broker Margin Call Black Tuesday The Crash
Boom-Bust Cycle Inflation/Deflation Recession Depression Federal Reserve Fiscal Policy
Rugged Individualism Laissez-Faire Hoovervilles Bonus March First Hundred Days Bank Holiday
New Deal Alphabet Agencies Dust Bowl Okies Keynesian Economics Prime the Pump Relief
Recovery Reform Hawley-Smoot Tariff Demagogue
On the differences between the 1920’s and 2008:
” We’ve gone from Al Capone to Al Qaida!”
– Maddie Cahill
Vonny – a great science blog run by a particle physicist, school board member, high school teacher and education reform consultant – asks a question that teachers, parents, administrators and our elected officials should all be considering:
….I think the main point being made is that educators are not asking the right questions today about what we are doing and teaching in K-12 school systems. This is in large part because of NCLB and the mandates we are forced to follow and the goals that are set for schools (again, those goals are to get kids to score well on the exams). But the title of the book asks one of the questions we should be asking. Another question is: What are the goals of a K-12 education, as well as what should be the goals of a K-12 education? Is the point of mandatory schooling to promote and effect the continuation of a democracy? Is it to prepare students for college? For the workplace? Is it to build independent learners and thinkers? Is it to develop good problem solvers? Is it to develop students who can recall a series of facts about a given topic? Or should we develop good, decent, multicultural individuals who can fit into our melting pot society? Are the goals some combination of all of the above, and if so, what gets the most emphasis? In the end, who decides what the goals are and how a school goes about working with kids to meet those goals? Should it be federally mandated, as in NCLB, or purely local? Should the education one gets in urban districts the same as one should get in rural, southern farming districts?
….Here is something to leave with. Should a “good education” focus on the specific content of specific areas of study, or should content be used as a means of getting students to develop what Deborah Meier calls the five “habits of mind?” These are 1) the value of raising questions about evidence (how do we know what we know?), 2) recognizing the point of view (whose perspective does this represent?), 3) how is material connected to other material (how is this related to that?), 4) supposition (how might things have been otherwise?), and what I always try to emphasize, 5) relevance (why is this important to my life?).
In the end, how much specific content does a typical student remember, since most is never used in their life? How well do I remember how to diagram complicated sentences, or remember specific dates from events that occurred centuries ago? Does that mean my early education was a failure? Not at all, nor should we suddenly expect today’s students to remember everything that is brought up in class by name…it is the higher-level thinking and problem solving skills that make a difference in life. It is knowing where and how to find information. It is knowing the right questions to ask when you don’t know something. It is finding connections between theory and reality, and recognizing how to draw logical conclusions based on supporting evidence. It is about being able to use some limited information and building off of it, and perhaps making predictions that are sound in judgment. It is about finding good information from the growing, endless stream of nonsense that is on the Internet, by checking it with multiple sources. ”
Setting overarching, systemic, objectives as the starting point for guiding change is strategic planning. By and large, our national and state level political leaders have failed at this task because to do so would require making clear educational choices – choices that would be guaranteed to offend significant sections of the electorate but would give the K-12 system greater curricular focus and consistency. Unfortunately, an effort to be all things to all people prevailed in Springfield
Illinois, like most states, opted to set a very, very, large number of specific and varied content benchmarks as “learning objectives” in each subject so that each interest group can feel satisfied that their concerns have been acknowledged by the legislature and State Board of Education. Best educational practices, scope, sequence, methodology, curricular coherence and students with special needs were secondary or tertiary considerations on which the state has passed the buck on to school districts and classroom teachers, to shoehorn in as best they can around the NCLB prioritized testing process. The schools are shouldering the responsibility our elected officials have abdicated (financially as well as politically).
Some districts, like Center Cass 66, have managed this precarious balance well while still erring on doing what is in the best interests of our students. Not every district in Illinois has been nearly as fortunate
Students have begun a new unit in Social Studies on the Roaring Twenties and the New Deal. The unit focuses on Social, Economic, Cultural and Political American history.
The 1920’s experienced an explosion of popular culture, fads, entertainment and mass media.
Lakeview Jr. High School proudly goes by the nickname “The Spartans“, after the great warrior city-state of Ancient Greece. But who were these Spartans?
Recently, I finished reading Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World (Vintage) and The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece by Cambridge professor and historian of classical Greece, Paul Cartledge. Scholars of the classical period have to be artists among historians for it is in this subfield that the historian’s craft matters most. While modern historians are literally drowning in millions of documents, classical sources are, for the most part, few, fragmentary and/or exceedingly well-known, some texts having been continuously read in the West for well over two thousand years. ” Getting the story right” depend’s heavily upon the historian’s ability to elicit an elusive but complicated context in order to interpret for the reader or student. Dr. Cartledge does an admirable job in this regard, explaining much about Spartan culture in just two short books.
Thermopylae and The Spartans can be an enjoyable introduction to the world of ancient Sparta for the general reader. Of the two, teens are better off reading Thermopylae, as the book uses the heroic battle of the 300 Spartans against the armies of Persia at Thermopylae as the backdrop to explain Sparta’s place in Ancient Greece. Cartledge concisely explains the paradox of hypercompetitive Sparta, at once the “most Greek” of all the Greeks yet also, the people most alien and distinct from the rest of the far-flung Greek world:
“Again, when Xenophon described the Spartans as ‘craftsmen of war’ he was referring specifically to military manifestations of their religious zeal, such as animal sacrifices performed on crossing a river frontier or even the battlefield as battle was about to be joined. The Spartans were particularly keen on such military divination. If the signs (of a sacrificed animal’s entrails) were not ‘right’, then even an imperatively necessary military action might be delayed, aborted or avoided altogether” (1)
“Plutarch in his ‘biography’ of Lycurgus says that the lawgiver was concerned to rid Spartans of any unnecessary fear of death and dying. To that end, he permitted the corpses of all Spartans, adults no less than infants, to be buried among the habitations of the living, within the regular settlement area-and not, as was the norm elsewhere in the entire Greek world from at the latest 700 BCE, carefully segregated in separately demarcated cemetaries away from the living spaces. The Spartans did not share the normal Greek view that burial automatically brought pollution (miasma).”(2)
The semi-Greeks of Syracuse, Sicily, probably had more in common in terms of customs with their Athenian enemies under Nicias in the Peloponnesian War than they did with their allies, the Spartans of Gylippus. Cartledge details the unique passage boys went though in Sparta’s ferociously brutal educational system, the agoge, and the boldness of Spartan women that amazed and disturbed other Greeks. Cartledge also traces the evolution of “the Spartan myth” that culminated in the recent action move 300, by Frank Miller.
In Cartledge’s books the mysterious, secretive and disciplined Spartans become, from glorious rise to ignominious fall, a comprehensible warrior-people .
1. The Spartans, P. 176.
2. Thermopylae, P. 78.