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Lesson Plan #:AELP-INT001
Submitted by: Timothy S. Olmstead
School or Affiliation: Newberg High School, Newberg, OR
Endorsed by: These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops. Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): Kindergarten, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Interdisciplinary

Description: This strategy is intended to help develop and evaluate the critical thinking skills of comparing, contrasting, and of analyzing similarities and differences. It is adaptable not only across the curriculum but also at any age level. It can be used to inspire small group work, writing assignments, inquiring lessons, and is also an excellent evaluative tool. Goal: Sesame Street Questions, the form of which was inspired by a regular feature on the television program of the same name, will encourage regular use of critical thinking skills. The strategy is simple to use and adaptable in a wide variety of situations.

Objectives: (This is a sample objective of but one option that can be adapted from this strategy.)

Given a series of four items sets of place names, the student will, in each set, select the item that lacks a common characteristic with the other three and he will write in a complete sentence what the characteristic is that the other three items have in common.

Materials: Teacher Creativity.

Procedure: (Again, this is but one example.)

If the strategy is going to be used on an evaluation, students need to be exposed to it several times before that time so they can get used to working with such questioning. Again the strategy can be used with large groups, small groups, or as the focus of a writing assignment. (Student generated questions are a nice source for evaluation material.)

One interesting characteristic of this strategy is that there may be several correct options. For example, take the following set of states:

Washington, North Dakota, Maine, Georgia
One option is Georgia, being the only one that does not border Canada. But North Dakota would be an equally good option as the only landlocked commonwealth of the set.

Tying it All Together:

It is important that students explain what characteristic the three left in items have in common. This takes the guess work away from the process and forces students to look for that common thread that binds items together. Students may want to write about what the other three items don’t have or write about a unique quality that their single choice does have, but these do not demand much discriminatory thought. Requiring them to write in positive terms takes away those options.