How do we use Analogies in the Classroom?

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Research tells us that learning is at its best when we use at least two analogies int he classroom to teach a topic.The analogy method in the classroom is the teaching of a new topic by connecting it with familiar information. For example, we might rely on portraying the white blood cells of our body as soldiers in our defense system. Here we use the analogy of soldiers (known information) to help teach the concept of white blood cells (new information).

How does the use of analogies help?

Using analogies in the classroom is an effective strategy as students tend to find it easier to understand a lesson when teachers form connections between the new topic and what has already been taught.

Imagine explaining the function of white blood cells as “the white blood cells are part of the immune system. When a germ micro organism enters the body, the cells are triggered to ingest these microorganisms through action of various enzymes.”

It is simpler to explain white blood cells as “soldiers defending our body from invading structures and instead of using bows and arrows or guns, they use enzymes.”

As we make use of analogies that are familiar to students, we increase retention and retrieval of information and thus improve and strengthen the learning process.

How does learning take place?

While using analogies, the teacher is trying to superimpose the traits or similarities of a familiar topic on to an unknown one. “It is like this” or “this is similar to…” are some examples on how we can use analogies to explain concepts. Students who are familiar with the known information (vehicle) will try to comprehend the new information (topic) by understanding the similarities between the two. The use of analogies makes information more concrete, provides a structural framework for learning the new schema and helps in the assimilation of the new information.

Points to consider

While teaching with analogies, teachers should consider the nature and characteristics of the topic and the vehicle, their similarities and if there is more than one vehicle for a particular topic. In other words, a topic may have several analogies that will help explain it, but it is up to the teacher to choose the one that explains it best. Research tells us that learning is at its best when at least two vehicles are used to teach a topic.

Another important aspect is how you introduce the vehicle in relation to the topic. You can use the vehicle before going on to the topic (pre-topic), or talk on the topic directly and bring the vehicle in later (post topic), or intertwine the two. Using analogies creatively can greatly enhance learning and retention.

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Discuss Here: What are some of the ways you have used analogies in the classroom?

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