The College Board abandoned the analogy as a SAT vocabulary question type in 2005. Those of us who remember taking SAT-style analogies are either nostalgic for the short word puzzles or are still traumatized by the sight of those tricky pairs of words mysteriously situated between single and double colons.
Regardless of your emotional associations with the SAT-style analogy, we'd like to revive this question form — not for standardized test purposes but as a useful and fun strategy to help your students better understand the relationships between words.
Yep — analogies are all about discovering the relationships between words, and that's why they are still a worthwhile activity. Analyzing the relationships between words is one way to get to know a pair of words better. Even the Common Core Standards for Vocabulary contain a "shout out" for the importance of analyzing the relationships between words as a key for learning vocabulary: "5.b. : Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words."
Let's look at a particular analogy question, and see how the process of solving it can teach students more about each of the words contained in its two word pairs.
AQUATIC : WATER :: terrestrial : _______________
The first step in solving an analogy is to discover the primary relationship between the pair of capitalized words. If your students were presented with aquatic and water, what could they say about their relationship? Of course, if they are unfamiliar with the word aquatic, then not much. This is where the Visual Thesaurus can come in handy, since the VT indicates relationships between words with gray dashed lines. If a student were to scroll over the dashed line between aquatic and water in the VT word map display for aquatic, he would learn that aquatic "pertains to" water.
You could then ask students to complete the following analogy by trying to find a word that terrestrial pertains to:
AQUATIC : WATER :: terrestrial : ?
Students could easily complete this analogy by clicking on terrestrial in the Visual Thesaurus display and learning that "terrestrial pertains to earth."
"Pertains to" is just one of the many word relationships displayed in Visual Thesaurus word maps. If students scroll over the gray dashed lines in the VT displays, they may discover other useful relationships for learning vocabulary and for solving and creating word analogies (e.g., "is a type of," "is similar to," "is a part of," is made of," "is a member of").
Here's an example of an inter-disciplinary analogy that students could solve by discovering the Visual Thesaurus "is a member of" relationship:
JUPITER : SOLAR SYSTEM :: John Lennon : _______________
Solving and creating analogy questions are worthwhile vocabulary activities for your students -- in all disciplines. And they can use the different relationships in the Visual Thesaurus displays to help them out. Click here to access the Weekly Worksheet, "Analogies Are to the VT as a Lock Is to a Key" for other examples of analogies that students can solve with a little help from the VT's relationship displays.
Georgia Scurletis is Director of Curriculum for the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com. Before coming to Thinkmap, she spent 18 years as a curriculum writer and classroom teacher. Georgia has written curriculum materials for a variety of Web sites (WGBH, The New York Times Learning Network, Edsitement) and various school districts. While teaching high school English in Brooklyn, she was a recipient of the New York State English Council's Educators of Excellence Award, the Brooklyn High Schools' Recognition Award, and The New York Times' Teachers Who Make a Difference Award.Click here to read other articles by Georgia Scurletis