Using Elaboration in Science Lessons

In my book (due out this month!) I have adapted some of the Learning Scientist strategies for physics classrooms. In this blog, I am sharing a technique I like to use in my classes – similar/different.

Science SimilarDifferent (the Universe) (1)

Learners complete as many of the text boxes as they can, showing the similarities and differences between the two objects/concepts. Cognitive psychologists call this elaboration.

Elaboration works by highlighting the similarities and differences between concepts (I first used it for Hadrian’s Wall and Trump’s Wall). In physics, elaboration helps learners develop their knowledge by adding subtle details.

I do this by providing my learners with a sheet to complete. If I do this at the start of the lesson, I am also making use of retrieval practice and interleaving (great podcasts here). If I do it at the end of the lesson (as a check out), I am typically using it more as assessment.

I often make use of “solo, pair, share” – my students complete their sheet solo for two minutes, then pair-up with a neighbour for one minute – this gives me three minutes to check everyone and identify the answers I want shared (I usually put a dot beside the sentences I want read out). Sharing takes a further couple of minutes.

Science SimilarDifferent (the Universe)

I generally have a completed version of my own to show in case I don’t get everything I want. This link shows examples for teaching the Universe: pdf file of similar/different examples for the Universe.

I hope this is useful.



  1. I like this. My concern would be that I have seen things like this used not for AfL or RP but for elicitation or some other process which occurs before instruction


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