Today is the first day that we actually get to the comparing and contrasting of two characters. To begin our lesson, we start by practicing that skill of comparison with something concrete and fun: pictures of two teachers. I say, "look at the two pictures on the smartboard. Describe how those two people are the same. How are they different?" One of the pictures is a photograph of me and the other is of their math/science teacher.
I give scholars 2 minutes to jot down their thoughts, then I give them 1 minute to share with a friend. Then, I call one friend from my cup and I take 1 volunteer. I may take more depending on the enthusiasm of the scholars.
I then say, "you have been comparing and contrasting characters for years, what's the big deal, why are we learning about it now?" I then explain that now that they're in 5th grade, we are going to be using quotes to support our comparison. Moreover, we are going to think about comparing categories so that our comparison is more organized and logical. I do this to extend the thinking of some of my more advanced scholars (they have to create categories themselves) and to scaffold for some of my lower scholars (I, or my ELL teacher, gives them the categories with which they can compare).
During the teaching strategy, I say, "Watch me use this Venn Diagram to compare and contrast Maniac Macgee and Amanda." First, I model thinking about which categories I might create. "Hmm, let's see. I could create a category on favorite food, but when I think about it, food isn't THAT important in this book. Instead, I think that I will focus on challenges that they face. Challenges are DEFINITELY important in this book!" I then write challenges on one line next to the Venn Diagram This will comprise the first third of the Venn Diagram.
The second section of the Venn Diagram will be physical traits. The third section is personality traits and the fourth section is character's response to challenge.
I model how to complete the Venn Diagram (using my foldables from the previous two lessons) for the first section - Physical traits. One key shift to emphasize here is that scholars need to use quotes to support their comparisons. I actually model how to copy quotes from the text to the Venn Diagram to strengthen my thinking. This will be helpful as scholars move to responding in writing later in the sequence of this skill.
Now that scholars have watched me model the skill of comparing and contrasting, they are ready to try it on their own with a partner. I say, "With your partner, complete the venn diagram comparing & contrasting Amanda and Maniac. Don't forget to use quotes to support your answer!"
Partner practice time is very valuable because it provides a low-stakes opportunity to practice the skill. If scholars are having a bough time, they can always ask their partner. This is a helpful step before scholars must be totally independent. It also helps me to check for understanding by walking around the room and asking questions like, "how are Maniac and Amanda the same? Different?" Depending on how scholars respond, i can offer more support - by saying something like, "What about their physical traits? How are they physically different." Or, I can extend them by saying, "How do you know that is true?"
--SIDE NOTE: I may use dry erase boards if an extra amount of accountability is needed. It is also an easy way to give "quick hit" feedback.
Scholars complete a 3 paragraph essay comparing and contrasting Amanda and Mcgee as an end-of-part 1 performance task. I scaffold this because it is the first performance task essay of the year, and they need the support. By the middle/end of the year, I will expect them to be able to do this completely independently. Even if you're not reading Maniac Macgee, you could still use this organizational structure with any comparison.
I give scholars the following organizational structure to follow:
Paragraph 1 - Opening
Paragraph 2 - How they are the same
Paragraph 3 - How they are different
**DON't forget a closing sentence (i.e. That's how Amanda and Maniac are the same and different.)
**DON'T forget to use quotes to support your answer.
To make this activity extra fun, I bring Butterscotch Krimpits and Orange soda in for scholars to enjoy (these are Maniac's favorite foods). I also play the song "Maniac." I want to establish a fun but productive atmosphere where working hard and having a great time are paramount. Having our first formal in-class essay while eating sweets and listening to fun 80's music definitely accomplishes this!