In Using The Schoolwide Enrichment Model with Technology, Angela Housand, Joe Renzulli, and I wrote about a way to introduce a lesson by heightening the anticipation of your students using an instructional strategy that you probably learned about at an early age while watching Sesame Street.
One of these things is not like the other,
One of these things just doesn’t belong.
Can you tell me which one of these things is not like the others
By the time that I finish this song?
While on Sesame Street, the object was to create an answer that was obviously not like the others, our purpose is slightly different and more complex. Here the object is to examine four items that are very similar in nature and to produce a prompt where there were multiple answers dependent on your perspective. Take a look at this example.
This collection of four images was intentionally selected to have a great deal in common while also with each item being unique. There are subtle differences between each of the images with the express purpose of spawning debate and discussion about which image is not like the others.
For example, the Van Gogh painting is not a photograph, but a self-portrait. The images of NASA’s Curiosity rover and the macaque are not images that were taken by a person. Does that make them selfies? Students might be interested to learn that on December 22, 2014, the United States Copyright Office stated that the works created by nonhumans are not subject to copyright, including photographs taken by monkeys. The fourth image is a photograph taken in 1839 by Robert Cornelius and is considered to be the first photographic portrait ever made. Interestingly, it was a self-portrait by Cornelius.
Rather than providing examples and non-examples with obvious differences, one can increase the complexity to deepen students’ understanding and broaden their perspectives of the concept being presented. This is intentionally a messy problem.
Have the students examine the four images and consider the following:
As I have been sharing this example with teachers and students, many interesting patterns have emerged. First, the largest number of people seem to think that the image of Curiosity is not like the others. The most common reason given is “because it is not alive”. This really hurts my heart on a number of levels, and I am willing to wager that you probably have at least one student in your class who would be willing to argue with you until the end of the day that Curiosity is indeed alive! I mean are R2-D2, HAL9000, The Robot from Lost in Space, and Wall-E not alive?!? There is also the question of who took the photograph of Curiosity and how is his arm not in the shot. Here is an explanation of how that is possible.
Next, many argue that the portrait of Van Gogh is not like the others because it is a painting and not a photograph. Again, you probably have a student who would point out that it is a photograph of a painting. You know exactly who I am talking about.
The real purpose here is to point out that sometimes there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, often what is most important is the discussion about what is possible in any given situation. What is “correct” is usually dependent on what you are looking for.
FROM CONSUMER TO PRODUCER
Rather than merely relying on this one example, I challenge you to have your students create their own One of These Things Is Not Like The Other. Here is a Google Drive Template to help you get started. This is something that I have been asking teachers and students to do. Here is a sample of some that have been created in workshops that I have conducted.
I encourage you to try this with your students. I would love to hear how it goes. Please share your experiences and your students’ creations below.