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Word Level Analogies - By Penny Brown, ABE/GED Teacher

Looking for another way to revisit vocabulary? Consider adding word level analogies to your classroom routine. 

Analogy activities support the CCRS (College & Career Readiness Standards) because they:

  • build and reinforce knowledge;
  • use relationship phrases as supporting evidence; and
  • can be designed for varying degrees of complexity. 

I have used analogy activities as a warm up activity to keep early arriving students productive while waiting for class to begin. Students complete 5-10 analogy puzzles as they come into class. We then review the answers before moving into formal explicit instruction. I usually structure the analogy puzzles as a review of previously covered material. Students enjoy beginning with a word level activity before diving into complex, text heavy tasks later in class. And analogy puzzles benefit my students because they push them to build connections between ideas, which is a concept that underlies much of the CCRS.


Begin by explaining, modeling, and guiding practice of analogies and various relationship phrases. Once the initial instruction is complete, you have a tool that can function with all word tiers. The analogy structure can be used to revisit or build deeper understanding of concepts in all academic domains.


The complexity of an activity can be controlled through the design of the task. Simple tasks require students to match a missing word to complete an analogy. Complexity is added when students provide evidence for their answer by identifying the relationship phrase. Rigor is increased when the task becomes open ended. Finally, students can be challenged to create their own analogies and support them with appropriate relationship phrases.

CCRS Connections

Analogy tasks allow us to combine vocabulary with other concepts embedded in CCRS. For example, several commonly used analogy relationship phrases tie into common concepts of text structure (RI.4.5). Grammatical relationships between words reinforce language anchors (L2.1 – 5.1). The use of Tier III vocabulary in analogies contributes to the foundation of content area reading (RI.4.3). Analogies are also easily adapted to support Mathematical concepts (4.OA.4,6.NS.6b, A.APR.1).

Tier 2 Samples (CCRS RI.5.4 & RI.4.5)
1. establish : maintain :: deteriorate: close (a comes before b - sequence)
2. emphasis : notice :: negligence: harm (a causes b – cause and effect)
3. subtle : flavor :: soothing : sound (a describes b – descriptive)

Tier 3 Samples (CCRS RI.5.4 & RI.4.3)
1. sunlight: photosynthesis: decomposers : nitrogen cycle (a is part of b)
2. parasite: disease :: wind : erosion ( a causes b)
3. pollution: overpopulation :: migration : hunger (a is an effect of b)

Mathematics Samples (4.OA.4,6.NS.6b, A.APR.1)
1. 5 : 125 :: 7 : 84 (a is a factor of b)
2. (3,4) : Quadrant I :: (-3,-3) : Quadrant III (a is located in b)
3. 3xy2 : monomial :: x2 + 2x +1 : trinomial (a is a type of b)

Originally published 5/7/18