The comparison/contrast essay assignment will utilize three to four instructional days.
This assignment is the culminating writing assignment for the unit and addresses two essential questions:
Introduce students to comparison/contrast writing by having them work with a paragraph structured in the mode. "That Lean and Hungry Look" offers a good model for students.
First, read the introduction to the paragraph and then read the paragraph.
Next, tell students that the comparison/contrast essay uses one of two organizational patterns, block or alternating. Put this information on the board:
Then, ask the students which organizational pattern the paragraph uses. More than likely, some students will say "block" and others will say "alternating."
Afterwards, to help students understand the paragraph construction, have the students stand. Tell them you are going to read the paragraph and you want them to do the following: "When you hear a reference to "skinny" people, hold your hands over your head." Demonstrate for them. The posture will look like a surrender. Then say, "When you hear a reference to "fat" people, put your fists on your hips." Again, demonstrate.
As you read, use one hand and arm to make the motions, especially if they seem a bit confused. Expect giggling, but also expect much student engagement.
Discuss the organizational pattern. All students should at this point realize the paragraph uses the "alternating" pattern.
Give students five minutes to complete the questions and discuss the answers with them.
Giving students who struggle a formula to complete guides them to understanding while reinforcing their developing skills.
*Note: An option to having the entire class "perform" is to have a small group of volunteers complete the activity.
Follow-up the paragraph exercise by giving students the handout explaining the assignment.
Read the handout to them, pausing periodically to allow questions and points of clarification. It's important that students understand they'll write more than one draft of the paper and that in the first draft they need to do their best work so the teacher can give her best feedback.
After seeing their first drafts, I realized my students needed additional scaffolding in writing the thesis sentence.
Theme: The idea about life and/or human nature in a work of literature.
Thesis: The central or controlling idea in an essay. The thesis articulates (states) the idea put forth in an essay.
Explain to students that theme is to literature what thesis is to an essay. Since students are composing an essay, they will construct a thesis.
The essay "Dumpster Diving" suggests that ___________________________________.
The poem "I Am Waiting" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti suggests that __________________.
The poem "I Am Waiting" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Martin Luther King's "Letter fromBirmingham Jail" both suggest that ____________________________________________.
It is, of course, preferable that students compose their own thesis w/out this scaffolding; however, assisting students w/ their thesis construction after they compose their first drafts has several benefits:
Use the attached rubric to evaluate the final student essay. It's specific to comparison/contrast but generic enough to work with any comparison/contrast essay on two texts.
Review the rubric with students, taking care to explain each point thoroughly and allow time for questions.
In this Vlogbrothers video, John Green compares and contrasts Benjamin Franklin's success to the rapper Drake's success. Green bridges historical narrative with pop culture to demonstrate that success has almost always depended on the assistance of others. Importantly, Green uses the techniques of comparison/contrast, and the transitions are especially effective. Teachers can support students developing writing and reinforce CCSS 6 (Speaking and Listening) through collaborative writing.
First, play the video and ask students to listen
Next, give students a sheet of unlined paper (or have them use their own). Tell them to "hotdog fold" the paper. This is a fold down the middle creating two vertical columns.
Divide the class in half. I numbered 1, 2, 1, 2, etc.
Instruct the 1s to take notes on the details they hear about Ben Franklin. Tell the 2s to take notes on the details they hear about Drake.
Now play the video again. As the video plays, list transitions Green uses on the board.
Group students, preferably with four students per group. Put two 1s and two 2s in each group.
Assist students in identifying and composing a thesis. Through discussion, students will compose a thesis similar to this one: "Neither Benjamin Franklin nor the rapper Drake succeeded without assistance from others."
Set the Timer and Write:
Share Group Essays:
*Students need to see teachers as writers, too. It's risky to share one's writing with students, but they will value the trust and be more willing to write when they see the teacher writing, too. Also, as the expert in the room, the teacher has much to offer about his/her writing process, strengths, and struggles.