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Vol 32 No 2, April - June 1994
Page 44


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Reinforcing Vocabulary: Writing Analogies

by Joseph Stockdale

A good way to reinforce vocabulary is to create analogies in the form A is to B as C is to D. For example:

A ruler A is to length B as a thermometer C is to _______.D

(anticipated answer:temperature)

The student must fill in the blank and explain his or her answer. For the analogy above, a student might say something like "Temperature, because a ruler measures length, but a thermometer measures temperature." In this way measure as well as ruler , length , thermometer , and temperature are all associated in the learner's mental lexicon.

The first step in creating analogies is to have a word or category in mind. The above analogy could be included in the category of measuring devices, as could the following:

A thermometer is to temperature as a ______ is to atmospheric pressure .

(anticipated answer: barometer)

Other devices that measure things and can fit into this pattern are the altimeter, speedometer, micrometer, sextant, compass, protractor, and seismograph, to name a few.

The student will not always give the anticipated answer. Many analogies are subject to interpretation, and any answer is all right as long as the student can justify it.

Thinking about numbers and fractions leads to analogies like the following:

Five is to ten as _____ is to fifty .

(anticipated answer:twenty-five)

Twenty-five is to one hundred as ______ is to one .

(anticipated answer:one-fourth/a quarter)

Parts of the body and their associated clothing is a very productive category:

A hat is to the head as gloves are to the ______.

(anticipated answer:hands)

A belt is to the waist as a tie is to the ______.

(anticipated answer:neck)

Thinking about tools results in the following analogies:

A screwdriver is to a screw as a hammer is to a ______.

(anticipated answer:nail)

A pair of scissors is to paper as a ______ is to wood .

(anticipated answer:saw)

Words that express a category or that form part of a set of words can inspire analogies like the following:

X is to a letter as 6 is to a ______.

(anticipated answer:number)

Thursday is to a day as January is to a ______.

(anticipated answer:month)

It is easy to think of analogies for the senses, such as the following:

The nose is to smell as the mouth is to ______.

(anticipated answer:taste)

Thereafter, any vocabulary item that is strongly associated with a sense can fit the following pattern:

Food is to taste as perfume is to ______.

(anticipated answer:smell)

Teachers often teach words associated with transportation and can write analogies like the following:

The road is to a car as the ______ are to a train .

(anticipated answer:tracks)

An airport is to planes as a port is to ______.

(anticipated answer:ships/boats)

Things derived from other things lead to analogies like the following:

Trees are to lumber as oil is to ______.

(anticipated answer:gasoline/petrol)

Beef is to cows as ______ is to sheep .

(anticipated answer:mutton)

Buildings and places is a category that provides almost ready-made analogies.

A factory is to cars as a ______ is to textiles/cloth .

(anticipated answer:mill)

A gym is to the body as a school is to the ______.

(anticipated answer:mind)

A student giving the anticipated answer to the analogy above would be expected to explain by saying something like "A gym develops the body, but a school develops the mind."

A teacher can create analogies to reinforce almost any element of the language that he or she feels is important. The following analogy focuses on subject - noun + verb collocation:

Shout (verb) is to a man as ______ (verb) is to a lion .

(anticipated answer:roar)

A teacher can elicit the answer to an analogy like the one above by saying "A man shouts . But we don't say a lion shouts. What's the word for when a lion makes a loud noise?" After a few examples students will recognize this kind of analogy as a type and need no further prompting.

Another example of subjectnoun + verb collocation follows:

Lightning is to flash (verb) as thunder is to ______ (verb)

(anticipated answer:rumble)

The following two analogies focus on verb + object - noun collocation:

Deny (verb) is to a request as ______ (verb) is to an invitation .

(anticipated answer:decline)

Give (verb) is to advice as ______ (verb) is to a suggestion .

(anticipated answer:make)

The following two analogies focus on adjective + noun collocation:

Large (adjective) is to a crowd as ______ (adjective) is to traffic .

(anticipated answer:heavy)

Heavy is to snow/rain as ______ is to wind .

(anticipated answer:strong)

Language functions can be reinforced in the following manner:

" Would you help me ?" is to a request as " Would you like some tea ?" is to an ______.

(anticipated answer:offer)

" Let's drink some tea " is to a suggestion as " You shouldn't drink so much tea " is to ______.

(anticipated answer:advice)

The clipping or removal of syllables to make long words short is a feature of English that can be reinforced by analogies such as the following:

Influenza is to flu as advertisement is to ______.

(anticipated answer:ad)

Photograph is to a photo as submarine is to a ______.

(anticipated answer:sub)

Almost any mass (uncountable) noun can be subdivided by a unit (countable) noun. This feature of English can be kept before the students with analogies like the following:

A bar [C] is to chocolate [U] as a ______ [C] is to butter [U].

(anticipated answer:stick)

A blade [C] is to grass [U] as a ______ [C] is to sand .

(anticipated answer:grain/particle)

The following two analogies set a pattern for group nouns:

A herd is to cattle as a ______ is to sheep .

(anticipated answer:flock)

A team is to athletes as a ______ is to sailors .

(anticipated answer:crew)

Sometimes a curriculum combines British and American English. If that is the case, countless analogies like the following can be made:

A flat (BE) is to an apartment (AE) as petrol (BE) is to ______ (AE).

(anticipated answer:gasoline/gas)

Vocabulary differences in style between formal and informal usage can result in analogies like the following:

Father is to Dad as Mother is to ______

(anticipated answer:Mom)

" Hello " is to " Hi " as " Goodbye " is to "______."

(anticipated answer:Bye/See you later)

The different parts of speech can be tested by analogies like these:

Succeed (verb) is to a success (noun) as fail (verb) is to a ______. (noun)

(anticipated answer:failure)

Loud (adjective) is to loudly (adverb) as good (adjective) is to _____. (adverb)

(anticipated answer:well)

The best analogies are often metaphorical and link words in vivid, memorable ways. For example:

Speaking is to silver as listening is to ______.

(anticipated answer:gold)

A good apple is to a rotten apple as a good man is to a ______.

(anticipated answer:bad example or influence/thief/robber)

Blood is to the body as ______ is to a machine .

(anticipated answer:oil/lubrication)

Why is oil like blood? A group of students will point out that people need blood to live; machines need oil to operate. Blood circulates through the body; oil circulates through the machine. Oil often circulates through hoses; blood circulates through veins and arteries. Sometimes machines leak oil; injured people bleed. When the oil is dirty or low, it must be replaced; if a person needs blood, he or she can get a transfusion, etc.

The following analogy is based on a riddle:

A dancing girl in a green dress is to ______

as an angry old man with a white beard is to ______

as a lazy boy with yellow hair is to ______

as a sad, crying woman with brown hair is to ______.

(anticipated answers:spring, winter, summer, fall!)

A discussion of the answers should result in much talk about the seasons, our attitudes towards them, and how they can be symbolized and personified.

Students will often give unanticipated answers to analogies. The following analogy caused me to learn about an animal I hadn't known of:

A brave man is to a lion as a coward is to a ______.

(anticipated answer:mouse/rabbit)

A student from a rural background volunteered "jerboa" as the answer, and then became the teacher as he described that particular animal to me.

After thinking of an analogy, I write it on the board, minus the answer, of course, which is often the subject of a discussion. After that, I review the analogy orally as a test of listening comprehension. Before major tests, I try to provide each student with a xeroxed compilation (again without the answers, which the student must write in) to assist him or her in reviewing the vocabulary.

Joseph Stockdale taught until recently at the Air Defense Institute in the UAE. Before that, he taught in Saudi Arabia and Greece. He is interested in all aspects of textbook development.



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Vol 32 No 2, April - June 1994
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