Before we start, consider this classic line from Lewis Carroll:
How is a raven like a writing desk?
Nothing brought me more joy in the classroom than a student’s ability to spot unexpected relationships. It takes a solid understanding of both sides of a relationship to spot those connections. It’s a sign of deep and creative thinking. It’s how new ideas form.
Some kids do it naturally. But can we help other students to also spot unexpected relationships?
I worked on a framework to help more students find unpredictable parallels across any content areas.
- First, we need two pieces of content. I chose the human body and a volcano. The less obviously connected, the better. The sense of excitement in finding connections is much greater when the ideas seem impossibly distant.
- Then, we brainstorm the most important terms for each of the two ideas. Treat these as two separate tasks. No need to try to connect yet. Get lots of ideas down. What are important terms/words/ideas/details when studying the human body? What about volcanoes?
- Only now do we start to look for connections. Pick one term from Content #1 and then browse for a related idea in Content #2. In the video lesson, I start with “conduits” in the volcano section and then look for a parallel with the human body. With this scaffolding, kids start finding connections much faster.
- Continue building these connections starting with other terms. Go in both directions, (human->volcano and volcano->human). This will trigger more ideas than just thinking in one direction.
Encourage students to try lots of ideas. Some will be bad. Some will be horrible. But some will be fantastic.
Then They Make A…
As a product, I decided to have students write a tiny story in which the two pieces of content meet each other and discuss their similarities. This could become a comic, skit, a larger narrative, or just a paragraph-long story.
Imagine a volcano and a human meeting and noting, “Hey! We both have tubes that run under our surface and transport important material! Mine are called veins, but yours are conduits? Weird!”
The full lesson is available at Byrdseed.TV.
And, while Carroll did not answer his own riddle, many others have. My favorite is Sam Loyd’s 1914 response: “Because Poe wrote on both.”