SOS: Similarities and Differences

Natural and Human-made Systems


The strategy of comparing similarities and differences is one that I use frequently in my classroom but is also supported as one of Marzano's 9 Effective Instructional Strategies (Tyson, K.). When students are comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences, which can be applied in any subject area, students are engaged and are partaking in an active learning environment. Students can create a T-chart, a Venn-Diagram, or another graphic organizer to categorize the similarities and differences they are able to recognize. This hands on activity has proven to increase overall student understanding of the concept, as well as, the ability to transfer it to real world tasks (Ohio Dept. of Education). This instructional strategy can be used to introduce content, to activate prior knowledge, and to reinforce key ideas.

Natural vs Human-Made Systems

Identifying the similarities and differences of natural and human-made systems is the starting point for our study of systems, models and patterns. When I begin this lesson, I first give students a list of objects and ask them to sort them into two groups, natural and human-made. Students have time to think on their own, share with a partner or their group and then we classify them as a whole group (think-pair-share). As we go through our lesson, we classify the characteristics of natural and human-made systems in order to allow us identify their similarities and differences as a system. At the conclusion of the lesson, students are given different systems to compare and contrast, usually with the use of a Venn-Diagram. Students must also explain, either written or verbally, their reasoning for the placement of each system.

This SMART Exchange notebook lesson gives a brief overview of natural and human-made and then provides a sort with pictures. This would be a great piece to use to activate prior knowledge, as students could do this at the beginning of the lesson.

This Discovery Education video clip Introduction to Body Systems would provide students with background information following the activity when content is being introduced. This video explains the nervous system in the body and compares it to a computer.


To my fellow colleagues: I challenge you to find a way to implement Identifying Similarities and Differences into your next lesson, or one that you are planning, and then let me know how you used it. I encourage you to make modifications and use it in a way to benefit both yourself and your students. Please share what this would look like in your classroom.


100% Educational Videos, (2012). The Nervous System:Introduction to Body Systems. [Video Clip]. Available from

hllambeth. (2013, February 3). Nature Made vs. Man Made. SMART Exchange. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from

Ohio Department of Education. (n.d.).Teaching Effective Learning Strategies: Similarities and Differences. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from

Tyson, K. (2014, January 5). Marzano's 9 Effective Instructional Strategies. . Retrieved July 27, 2014, from