Identifying Similarities and Differences

Identifying similarities and differences is one of nine research-based strategies for increasing student achievement defined by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, and Jane Pollock in their book Classroom Instruction That Works. The strategy assists students in identifying characteristics and understanding relationships between objects, people, places, or ideas.In the classroom, this strategy is recognizable in four forms: comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies. These activities are effective in all content areas but are especially significant in the area of literacy.

How does identifying similarities and differences relate to literacy? These types of activities help students make meaning of text during and after reading. Graphic organizers, which are often used as part of this strategy, help students organize the information they’ve learned and enhance comprehension. Finally, writing and communicating are inherently part of activities involving comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies.

The resources highlighted below provide general information about the strategy of identifying similarities and differences. More specific information about comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies can be found in Activities for Identifying Similarities and Differences in the Professional Learning department.


Literacy Content Knowledge

Focus on Effectiveness: Research-Based Strategies
This page provides an overview of the strategy of identifying similarities and differences, a summary of key research findings in the area, and tips for classroom implementation. Related classroom examples show how teachers implement this strategy in content areas and integrate technology.

Teaching Effective Learning Strategies: Similarities and Differences
This brief article summarizes researchers’ recommendations for identifying similarities and differences.


National Council of Teachers of English and International Reading Association: Standards for the English Language Arts
This site lists the 12 English Language Arts Standards for K-12 students. Standard 3, which states that “students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts,” is addressed in lessons and activities that require students to identify similarities and differences.

This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org .

Copyright March 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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