I tell the students to sit on the rug because we are playing a game for math. “We are going to practice finding things that are the same,” I say.
I get out a bin of attribute blocks and present a challenge: We are going up to the bin, and we are choosing one attribute block in one hand, and another attribute block in the other hand that is the same. We will hide our blocks in each hand until everyone has gotten to choose two, and then we will reveal them one at a time.
I show them how I picked up a green fire truck in one hand and a green teddy bear in the other hand. I hold my closed fists and show them that I can hide them until it was time to show off what I picked.
Students are asked to come up to the bin and select one item to hide in each hand. They stay standing after they pick their pieces so I could keep track of who still needs to be called up.
After the entire class is standing with their attribute blocks in their hands, I start to ask them to show their same things. Every child gets a chance to show his or her selections, so I move quickly as I try to be certain each student gets his or her “moment.”
Most students will select exactly two of the same item—purple school buses, for instance—but some students will get a purple bus and a purple bear. Those pairs are fun, and I really get goofy when I come across one of those pairs. “Hmm… a purple bus and a purple bear??? Are those the same???” The students will say “Yes!” and of course, I ask, “Why???” I then ask one student to explain, and the student tells us that the attribute blocks are both purple. “Oh! The same color!” I say.
A couple students will actually struggle with the complex of same. When that happens, I gently say, “Yellow bus. Green cow. I bet you can switch one of those for something that is the same, right?” If the student continues to struggle & simply stands at the bin of attribute blocks, I offer, “Would you like to get another yellow something or another green something?” The student will then select something that is the same color.
After all students have practiced the concept of the same with the attribute blocks, I say, “We did a great job practicing same. But not everything is the same.” I ask a little boy who does not have any features similar to mine stand up, and then I ask, “Is [child’s name] and I the same? I mean, we’re both people, but… he’s a student and I’m a teacher… He’s 5 and I’m 300… What else is different about [child’s name] and me?”
I call on students who list a variety of differences, like eye color, hair color, and clothes. (I even try to wear a skirt or a dress on this particular day!).
Then I immediately model things that are the same about us. “We both have black shoes. The black on our shoes is the same. We both have blue on our shirts. The blue on our shirts is the same. So there are things about us that are different, but there are also things about us that are the same.”
“Okay, so we’ve talked about different, and we’ve talked about same. You are going to get a buddy, like I just did, and you and your buddy will pick 2 things that are the same about you, and 2 things that are different. After you find your same and different things, sit down so I know you are ready to share. We will share with the class.”
I pair the students up, trying to choose a student who is slightly more articulate to work with a student who may tend to sit back a little. I expect all students to participate, though, so I tell them that one partner will tell us the 2 same things between them, and the other partner will tell us the different things.
After all partners get a chance to share, some completely independently and some with a little prompting and support, we wrap up our lesson for the day.
“So friends, we talked about 2 very important words, for math and for life. What is a word we use to talk about things that are alike?”
I call on a student who says, “Same!”
“Great, and when things are not the same, we say they are…”
Students respond, “Different!”
I give a little preview, saying, “Soon, we will be doing lots of sorting. We will see how important it is to understand ‘same’ and ‘different.’ We will put this learning to good use!
“What did you like best about our math today?” I ask.
Students have a variety of responses, everything from “I liked working with a buddy” to “I liked picking my 2 same things.” One student said in classic kindergarten style, “I like the yellow buses. Can I take them home?” Ahh… kindergartners!