Same but Different

December 5, 2013

Yesterday, Robert had to rewrite the short paragraph replacing underlined words with their antonyms. On the top of the page, there was a box with ten antonyms to choose from. It seemed that the task was easy enough to be completed by Robert without my support.  Moreover, I made sure that Robert read each underlined word and verbally matched it with its opposite.  When Robert began to copy the first sentence, I went to the kitchen.  A few minutes later, I returned and found out, that Robert stopped copying the text exactly at the moment he should have used the substitution for the first time.

On the back of the page, I wrote all the underlined words in one column, and all their opposites in the other.  Without any difficulties Robert properly matched them.  We returned to the text.  I left Robert alone with his assignment.  Robert exhibited the same behavior as before.  He stopped writing and waited for my return.

It was the same task, and yet for Robert it was a different one. When the words were tightly packed in sentences and surrounded by other words, Robert was confused and not sure what to do.

I gave up on “independence”  and allowed Robert to look at the back of the page to find matching words. He did look twice.

Then he got it. He substituted  the remaining eight words with their opposites without looking at the back of the page.

As he worked on antonyms, Robert  learned that tasks which present themselves differently are, in fact, similar. I understood the opposite, “Tasks that look identical to me, can be quite different for Robert.”