Having Fun with Analogies

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An analogy is a way of thinking about how pairs of words are related.   It’s a special kind of word puzzle that lets a student have fun and exercises their brain at the same time!  If you need a language arts activity to help keep your students on their toes, teach them how to create analogy puzzles!  They can be done at any time, and kids seem to always enjoy the challenge.     

Usually, an analogy exercise will be a set of three words and a blank line, which the student must fill in with the correct word.  The : symbol in the analogy means “is to,” and the :: symbol stands for “as.”  When the analogy is read out loud, students should be taught to read these symbols as if they were words.  For instance, the following analogy should be read like this:

boat: goat:: fan: man

“Boat is to goat as fan is to man.”

Analogies are a form of logic or step-by-step thinking to solve problems.  The most important thing you have to do is to make sure students understand the “thinking process” involved in the analogy.  You can teach them to solve the puzzle just by following these steps:

Step 1:  Decide how the first two words in the analogy are related.

Step 2:  Think how the other pair of words relate in the same way.

Step 3:  Choose a word that makes both pairs relate that way.

Let’s try it!  Look at the first set of words in the example again.  How are boat and goat related?  They rhyme!  Now, look at the word fan.  Can you think of a word that rhymes with fan?  We could use the word manMan rhymes with fan, so man would be a good choice to fill in the blank.  That’s how we solve the puzzle and come up with the analogy:  “Boat is to goat as fan is to man.”

Shurley English teaches a list of analogies called “The Big 10.”  The list shows different ways words can be related, and it’s very helpful as students learn to discover word relationships, using analogies.  Post this list in your classroom for quick reference: 

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Rain : train :: cup :  pup

This is the proper reading of this rhyming analogy: 

Rain is to train as cup is to pup.

stripe : zebra :: spot : leopard

This is the proper reading of characteristic analogy: 

Stripe is to zebra as spot is to leopard.

Read analogies often with your students, and go through the “thinking process” with them.  Then, have students complete brain puzzles.  Try implementing analogy activities like the one below as often as you can to help your students exercise their brains and have fun at the same time!

BONUS ACTIVITY: Analogy Puzzles

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Making Practice Count

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I have never taken a class in martial arts, but I have certainly enjoyed watching Bruce Lee’s moves in his action-packed films!  Let’s face it!  The guy was physically amazing, but more than that, he had a way with words!   

Lee was more than just a famous martial artist!  He was also an actor and a philosopher with a long list of inspirational quotes tagged to his name.  Many of his famous quotes are still being used today to trigger personal growth, and one of my favorites says: 

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

This particular Bruce Lee quote reminds me of the importance of practice.  Practice, of course, is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement.  When we practice something over and over again, we naturally perform that particular skill with more ease, speed, and confidence.  

According to educators, Annie Bosler and Don Greene, practice affects the inner workings of our brains.  In a popular TED-Ed video entitled:  How to practice effectively…for just about anything, these two teachers put together a lesson that includes four simple steps to follow.  The steps include:

  1. Focus on the task at hand. Minimize potential distractions by turning off the computer or TV and putting your cell phone on airplane mode.

  2. Start out slowly or in slow-motion. Coordination is built with repetitions, whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the speed of the quality repetitions, you have a better chance of doing them correctly.

  3. Frequent repetitions with allotted breaks are common practice habits of elite performers. Studies have shown that many top athletes, musicians, and dancers spend 50-60 hours per week on activities related to their craft. Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration.

  4. Practice in your brain in vivid detail. It’s a bit surprising, but a number of studies suggest that once a physical motion has been established, it can be reinforced just by imagining it.

Bruce Lee became well-known as a professional martial artist, actor, and philosopher because of hard work and lots of focused practice.  As human beings, we can all benefit from applying these 4-steps to practice just about anything effectively.