sama, yang sama, tetapi berbeda

Commonalities begin the conversation, but differents expand empathy.

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Have the students look for all the commonalities among the students in class. Make this list visible. Then have the students begin the work of naming all the "differents" among their classmates, posting that list. This then provides opportunity to talk about same, same, but different among the class. This phrase "same, same, but different" comes from our working with teachers in Indonesia. 


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Photo of Myron Williams

We used this for teachers so our questions are geared toward them. Depending on the age of the class you might ask questions about where they were born; how long have they lived in their house; do they have siblings and/or pets; hobbies or favorite things to do when not in school. Of course if they are older students let them develop their own questions and see what they come up with.

You frame it with describing that all of us have some things in common (then use what and where you are as examples), then explain how you want to look further into the similarities, seeking to build empathy and friendship before going to the differences. Then even as you switch to differences you do so as a way of better understanding everyone, seeking respect, peace, and understanding.

Photo of Megan McMahon

Hi Myron! I like the idea of this being used in pairs and then slowly building out to broader groups--maybe pairs, fours, then groups of 8, etc. I could see this kind of activity being used multiple times over the year, but within different broader themes...students might find they have similarities within their differences! How do you structure this activity? Would love to know what kinds of questions you ask and how you frame it to start!

Photo of Emma Scripps

Myron Williams Neat idea. I love this "same same // different different" activity. I could see it opening up a unit or even the year.

Wondering if you might spell out how you think this builds empathy. Is that students begin to recognize commonalities and differences and in that -- they see that even with someone very "different" there might be something the same?

I wonder what this would look like in pairs first -- and then in a whole group.


Photo of Myron Williams

We have done this with teachers, with some being very young, and some far older. This worked really well so we challenged them to do this with their students. We've not been back yet to see if they did it and the results. Our teachers were in elementary and high school, so all school ages were covered. We're not sure if or when we will get back (to Indonesia).

I did this with an elementary teacher group, who really were operated in silos, and they found they really got to know one another and worked together for 4 weeks after the exercise very effectively. The young learned from the older, and the older saw that the younger, whom they said were so different, were really like themselves when they were young.

Photo of Lisa Yokana

I love the "same, same, but different!" I wonder what this looks like with different age groups? How might you build trust with older students so that they could go deep with this? I think that would be very powerful! And it would be interesting to think about capturing the different stories that come out of the sharing. I'm not sure how, but it would be interesting to think about. I'd love to see you build on this idea and am happy to answer any questions...