Now this makes sense!
Research into the use of analogy, metaphor, and allegorical stories and their effect on the brain reveal the same agency at work during learning: when learners activate their prior knowledge through the mechanism of analogies, they extract knowledge like a past experience, enabling them to solve current or future problems.
Montessori Guides Create Opportunities for Optimal Learning by Analogy
You might be wondering how in the world analogies are in use in Montessori schools around the world. Aren’t analogies simply, “If this is that, then that is this” such as “milk is to cow as eggs are to chickens”? Yes, they are. Yet if you take this same concept and stretch it to include memories that when retrieved create a framework for future learning, then you can see how analogies are imperative for learning. Some researchers have dubbed this an “analogical transformation process”. In other words, learning by analogy!
Here’s one example: I grew up listening to my grandmother’s stories of her grandmother crossing the Oregon Trail and would spend hours fantasizing about my great great great grandmother’s hardy temperament and pioneer spirit. Highlights from these stories were pulled out of my memory banks and shared with my nine through twelve year old students as part of an introduction to the westward movement of immigrants in the United States. Several years later, some of these same students came back to visit and shared their recollection of how powerful that particular lesson stuck with them. They even remembered what was happening in U.S. history during certain events happening to my ancestors.
Humans exhibit a universal ability to learn from experiences, even if they themselves have not experienced them literally. In Montessori early childhood (2.5-6 y.o.) environments, the story of what is real sets the groundwork for children to acquire new information. When Montessori elementary students are exploring the rich cosmic curriculum, they do so with the framework of five “Great Stories” they recall for reference and relevance and are then able make new discoveries within this foundational understanding.
So how do YOU put this strategy into play in YOUR classroom?
Use my Free Quick Tip #2 for Learning by Analogy
Montessori lessons follow three steps, or periods, which can be augmented with a simple cognitive mechanism called, “Activate Prior Knowledge” that essentially utilizes the mechanism of learning by analogy. Our brains process information better if our brain cells are “primed” by relating the new information to something already familiar. By so doing, the novel information is more easily understood and recalled later.
Dr. Montessori was clear that children are not “tabula rosa” or blank slates to be filled with information. Utilizing what your students already know and or notice, is a form of activating prior knowledge and is a natural jumping off point for a lesson rich in relevance.
Take a moment before you begin any lesson and ask your student what they know about the material or topic already. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “What do you notice?” For example, when I begin a checkerboard lesson with a lower elementary student, we pause and peruse all the materials and I ask them to tell me what they notice. Usually they notice things like how the mat is made of up of the familiar hierarchical colors of green, blue, and red, and they notice the familiar bead bars. This step alone increases the possibilities of deepened understanding of the concept.
When you jump into new content in the lesson after priming their memory about related content, then you have optimized the moment and used the strategy of learning by analogy.
How are you going to incorporate more learning by analogy into your learning environment?
– By Tammy Oesting
Our ABCs of Learning: Montessori Edition is inspired by the work of authors Daniel L. Schwartz, Jessica Tsang and Kristen Blair, Professors of Education at Stanford University’s book The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use which was reviewed on our Great Titles for Educators web page.