Differentiated Instruction and Critical Thinking


Synectics (William J. Gordon)



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Synectics (William J. Gordon)

  • “The joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements,” or put more simply, “Making the familiar strange.”
  • Teach a topic to students.
  • Ask students to describe the topic, focusing on descriptive words and critical attributes.
  • Teacher identifies an unrelated category to compare to the descriptions in #2. (Think of a sport that reminds you of these words. Explain why you chose that sport.) Students can choose the category, too.
  • Students write or express the analogy between the two: The endocrine system is like playing zones in basketball. Each player or gland is responsible for his area of the game.

4-Square Synectics

  • Brainstorm four objects from a particular category (examples: kitchen appliances, household items, the circus, forests, shopping malls).
  • In small groups, brainstorm what part of today’s learning is similar in some way to the objects listed.
  • Create four analogies, one for each object.
  • Example: How is the human digestive system like each household item: sink, old carpet, microwave, broom
  • Example: How is the Pythagorean Theorem like each musical instrument: piano, drum set, electric guitar, trumpet?

Will ____ become the new ____?

  • Samples: Micro-fiber is the new suede.
  • Red is the new black.
  • Applied to k-12 curriculum:
  • What is meant by the statement: “Decimals are the new fractions?”
  • Are PDA’s the new paper and pencil?
  • Is a Constitutional republic the new representative democracy?
  • Is M-Theory the new String Theory?
  • Is this character the Atticus Finch of the story?

Petals Around the Rose

  • The name of the game is, “Petals Around the Rose.” The name is very important. For each roll of the game, there is one answer, and I will tell you that answer.

Petals Around the Rose

  • Answer:
  • 6
  • 10
  • 0

Petals Around the Rose

  • Clues to give students if they struggle:
  • All the math you need to solve this problem you learn in kindergarten or before.
  • The sequence of the dice patterns has no bearing on the answer.

Successful Thinkers…

  • Concede ignorance when they are ignorant.
  • Find out what’s going on.
  • Respect intellectuals and don’t deride them.
  • Speak out after doing their homework.
  • Examine superstitions.
  • Play thinking games and amuse themselves by trying to answer puzzle questions.
  • Become more informed about history than they are.

Successful Thinkers…

  • Aren’t afraid to change their minds.
  • Are aware that their opinions, assumptions, and beliefs are often affected by peer-group pressure.
  • Are realistically skeptical – even of leaders.
  • Recognize that they have personal prejudices.
  • Do not to fall in love with their first answers.
  • [from Steve Allen’s book, Dumbth: The Lost Art of Thinking: with 101 Ways to Reason Better and Improve your Mind (Prometheus Books)]

The Gettysburg Address

  • Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract…

Proficient Readers

  • Aoccdrnig to rseerach at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what order the ltteers in a word are, the olny iprmoetnt tihnh is that the frist and lsat ltteer is in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can still raed it outhit a porbelm. This is bcuseae we do not raed ervey letetr by itslef, but the word as a wlohe. -- Sousa, p. 62

Reading Comprehension: 16 All-Time Best Practices

  • Create personal background where there is none.
  • Set or facilitate reading purpose.
  • Prime students’ minds.
  • Teach students how to monitor their own comprehension.
  • Use frequent and varied summarization techniques.
  • Use think-alouds.
  • Teach students “fix up” strategies to use when confused.
  • Make reading a transformative experience.

Reading Comprehension: 16 All-Time Best Practices

  • Facilitate substantive and personal interaction with text.
  • Teach vocabulary for its own sake.
  • Ask students to write a lot, particularly as they come to know content
  • Teach text structures to students.
  • Teach students metaphors and to think metaphorically.
  • Teach students how to visualize text.
  • Teach reading in context of content studies.
  • Teach students how to adjust reading for different purposes and texts.


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