This assessment will be an individually completed task, but to begin with, I want teams of students to work together to decide what to write about. I give them instructions to come up with two everyday objects to compare and contrast. Each student writes down their own suggestion and the group comes to consensus over which one to write about. All students will be writing about the same two things, so if a group already has trouble working together, you may want to sit in to facilitate.
After the groups come up with their two objects, I give them the t chart paper and they must label it- one side with each object.
After all students have their Tcharts labeled, I explain the structure we're going to be using to chart the similarities and differences. The paragraph will be independently completed but I don't want the charting to hold them back from what I am really assessing so I let them work together to find characteristics to describe each of their objects.
The structure we use is called a Simultaneous Round Table (Kagan and Kagan, 2009). It begins like this: I tell the students that they are going to help each other out in finding the similarities and differences between their two objects. Every person has a Tchart and a pencil. When I say go, each person will write something under one of the objects in the Tchart on their own paper and then pass the paper clockwise to the next person. Each person will continue passing until time is up. The idea is that each team member will come out with paper of characteristics for their objects from which they can draw their similarities and differences.
After 3 or 4 minutes (or more depending on how many passes have been made- I like to let it go around a few times), I call time and the writing stops. Each student gets their own paper back and the writing can begin.
After the Simultaneous Round Robin (Kagan and Kagan, 2009), students will get their own Tcharts back and I hand out paper. This time, I do not allow students to have their Interactive Student Notebooks out. I want to see what they can do without that support- a form of gradual release, I guess.
Again, this is their time. I turn the music on and let them work. At the end of class, I collect the essays and prepare them for the next day's lesson: comparing and contrasting texts!!