To get the comparing juices flowing I asked students which story did they like better, Miss Nelson is Missing or Miss Nelson is Back and why. This question prompted a mini retelling of the stories and a bit of a debate over which story was better. During the debate students had to justify their reasoning, which led to retelling parts of the story. Students were using key details from the story to make their point. I was the facilitator of the conversation, and kept it going by asking simple questions like "why?" and "why do you think so?" This was a good review.
Some students liked the the first one better because of the surprise of finding out who Miss Swamp turned out to be. Others liked the second book because students went searching for Miss Nelson and wondered again who Miss Swamp was.
This year we have compared and contrasted characters using a Venn Diagram. I choose the Venn Diagram again today because my students are more comfortable using it than the other tools I have introduced so far. I like to have a lot of time to work with tools before I release my students to use them on their own with a fairly new skill.
We have been completing a key detail chart on the Miss Nelson series books. I use this chart as our point of reference when completing the Venn Diagram. I chose to compare the books Miss Nelson is Missing and Miss Nelson is Back because they are more closely related than the third book Miss Nelson Has a Field Day.
I think aloud and model what details are the same and which are different as we go through each part of the chart and discuss where to place each detail on the Venn Diagram. Students help me by telling me if the detail is the same or different in the stories. If it is the same, it goes in the middle. If it is different, students tell me which side I write the detail on depending on which story it goes with. Opposites go across from each other on the Venn Diagram. Students shouldn't just write them in a random order.
You can see an example of this on the venn diagram from a student comparing Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp, where Miss Nelson is nice and Miss Swamp is mean. These details are directly across from each other on the Venn Diagram.
My students have independent book boxes. This allows them to choose books from the classroom library to keep at their desks to practice reading. Some of these books are on their independent reading level, some are for enjoyment, and one is a magazine. These stories are fiction and nonfiction, their choice. The books in their book box are for reading when they finish early, for literacy activities, and sharing in our author's chair. Student love to share their stories with the class, whether it be reading the words to the class or reading/showing the pictures. Today my students will use the stories in their book boxes to complete this practice activity.
A majority of my class are reading below grade level, but their reading levels are closely matched. Most days I allow them to choose their own partners because they all work well together. However, today I choose partners for them because I know that some students are more comfortable with Venn Diagrams than others. I also take into consideration which students know the skill we are working on, and partner them with students who are less proficient. Later in the year when we have worked with other comparison tools, I will allow them to choose which tool they would like to compare with.
Today they will each choose their own fiction independent reading book. I remind them that they will be comparing the texts and should choose texts that may have elements in common. I provide some examples of what to look for when doing a quick look through the book: Are they both fiction? Do they have similar characters (i.e. people or animals)? Are the settings similar? Having them choose fiction stories that are similar ensures they will each be able to compare story elements. They will compare the key details of their book with the key details in their partner's book. After they read the book, they will help each other complete the Key details chart. After they have completed a chart for both books, they will fill in the Venn Diagram together.
Getting students to work together as partners can be a challenge especially at the beginning of the school year. I spend a lot of time in the first few weeks modeling how to talk and work together. We talk about and model what to do and what not to do, like not to let one person do all the work. We also go over how to ask your partner for help and when to call in the teacher to help. As students are working together I walk around to monitor and answer any questions students have.
There are many types of closing activities, but when we do activities like this I like to use a gallery walk to share what we have created. I split my students into two groups; one group walks around and the other presents the Venn Diagrams. Then they trade and those that were presenting are walking around and the ones that were walking are now presenting their Venn Diagrams. I give each person 30 seconds to tell them about their diagram. Then they move to the next diagram. This way everyone gets a chance to see and present.