There are countless opportunities to teach the concept of comparing and contrasting - you can have students compare themselves and a classmate, two seasons, two sports... the list goes on and on! I will admit, I was still doing these types of compare and contrast writing activities with 4th and 5th graders a few years back. I would start with a Venn diagram, and then I would have students write a few paragraphs. I was confident that I was giving my students (many English language learners) plenty of opportunities to correctly form compare and contrast paragraphs using the appropriate signal words.
Recently, however, I've begun to question whether those past activities were enough. A few months ago, I was looking at the Common Core State Standards, and I was surprised to see how often some sort of comparing and contrasting task are included in the 5th grade reading standards! Therefore, I set out to create some materials that incorporate reading into my compare & contrast unit, by specifically addressing RL.5.3.
- RL.5.3: Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events, in a story or drama, drawing on specific details from the text.
I created some materials that I will share at the end of this post, but my main purpose for writing this blog post is to share the following lesson with you. This lesson uses the book Dinosaurs Before Dark, the first Magic Tree House book by Mary Pope Osbourne. (Amazon affiliate link below)
Prior to the beginning of class, you need to cut apart the sentence strips and recreate the basics on the anchor chart shown below. (Leave the Venn diagrams blank for now.)
I would begin class by holding up the book and asking students who have previously read the book to raise their hands. I would state that these will be our book experts, and those who haven't read the book before might be asking them some questions.
I would then point out the Venn diagram, and tell them that we are going to be comparing and contrasting the characters, settings, and events within this book. After a quick review of what it means to compare and contrast, I would distribute a sentence strip to as many students as possible. (There are 18 strips, so a few students would have to share.)
Students would take turns reading their statement to the class. During his or her turn, each student needs to:
- determine whether their statement makes a strong enough comparison to list on the Venn diagram.
- determine whether their statement belongs on the setting, characters, or events Venn diagram.
- determine whether their statement is a compare statement or a contrast statement.
- determine what key words should be written on the chart. (Complete sentences should be avoided on the Venn diagrams- key words only!)
The finished anchor chart looks like this:
Once we have completed the anchor chart, I would have the students help me write a compare/contrast paragraph using some of the signal words. (I usually just focus on the "characters" Venn diagram. This is where our "experts" would come in, because after each statement, I would require students to support it with evidence from the text. I would use the document camera to project my writing, and have students copy it into their notebooks. We would then highlight the signal words we used.
If you want to download this lesson to use in your own classroom, please click HERE.
If you are looking for additional Compare & Contrast activities to use with your upper elementary students, please check out any of the following resources that interest you!
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