Comparing and Contrasting With "Then and Now"

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SWBAT compare and contrast key ideas and details from two informational texts on the same topic; SWBAT write a structured informational paragraph to report out their analysis of the texts.

Big Idea

Students will never complain about school when they find out what school was like long ago!

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

One of the great things about Common Core is that there are now so many social studies and science connections in the texts that we read.  Today's lesson is a great small group reading lesson that has a social studies connection.  In this lesson, we will be comparing and contrasting schools from long ago and schools of today.

As we read the text, students will have to answer text-based questions that I ask when comparing and contrasting how schools are alike and different from schools hundreds of years ago.  Doing so addresses standards RI.1.1 and RI.1.3.  Today's text also utilizes captions, which brings in RI.1.5.  We will talk in depth about how this text feature gives us information about the picture and we will also write our own captions in our books to internalize the feature.  Finally, we are going to be writing informatively to tell our audience how schools today are alike and different from schools from long ago.  This addresses standard W1.2.

I love using Dinah Zyke foldable books.  They are easy to make and the books motivate the students to write.  For this lesson I have made 3 tab books and glued them together to make a larger book. To see how to assemble the book look at my how to directions here How to Make Then and Now Books.  I have also included the pictures with the caption boxes for our books if you would like to use them Then and Now Pictures and Captions.  You will need to prep enough books for each student in your small group and copy enough double bubble maps, Student Copy Double Bubble, so students can record their information as they compare and contrast.

A note about the lessons within this unit: I have an hour to teach 4 small groups each day.  Each group gets 15 minutes with me each day.  I am writing this lesson as a whole lesson, but I could never get it done with each reading group all in one day.  Realistically it took me 3 days to do this lesson with each group.  You can easily take this lesson and chunk it out to how it will fit your classroom based on what your district mandates and what time restraints you have in your classroom.  Also, this lesson was geared for my advanced-level groups. I used the advanced level reader for Pearson's Reading Street called "Then and Now"  but you could easily use any informational text that compares and contrasts something from 2 different time periods.

Reading and Discussion of the Story

20 minutes

To begin the lesson, I did a few (short) pre-reading activities to ensure we would get the most out of the text.

I introduced the vocabulary that students needed to know when reading the story.  Vocabulary is important to teach and should be taught intentionally to help students being able to comprehend the text.  As I was teaching the vocabulary, I was giving my students background knowledge as to what schools were like hundreds of years ago.

I informed the students before we started reading that this was a non-fiction story and that there were captions with each picture.  I instructed the students that captions told about the pictures and helped us to understand the pictures better.  If we understand the pictures, it helps us to understand the text better.  Finally, I explained that this book would tell us about how schools were a long time ago and how schools are today. 

We started to read the story and stopped after every two pages where they discussed a certain point about the schools such as how schools were a small school house long ago and today we have large schools.  We would talk about each point in depth.  This really helps my students understand the text better when we stop and talk about the key ideas in detail. 

Comparing and Contrasting Key Ideas

15 minutes

I passed out a double bubble map to each of my students and we did a close reading of our text.  Close reading is a new buzzword  with Common Core, but all it really means is that a reader must read the text carefully and purposely in order to uncover the different layers of meaning that will lead the reader to deeper comprehension. 

These are the key points we contrasted in the story:

  • small school house long ago; large schools today
  • all grades in one room long ago; different grade levels today
  • hornbooks long ago; many books for us to read today
  • students walked to school long ago; kids get to school in cars and buses today

These are the key ideas we compared in the story:

  •      both kids from long ago and today learned to read and write
  •      both kids from long ago and today learned math
  •      both kids from long ago and today go to school with friends

I've included a picture of a student work sample here, Then and Now Student Double Bubble,that will give you a good idea of what your student's double bubble maps might look like.

Writing Our Own Book

30 minutes

The students had their double bubble maps, and I set their "Then and Now" books in front of them.  This is what I had preplanned for our group to talk about:

  • one room school house then / large schools today
  • students all in one room then / different grade levels and classes today
  • students used hornbooks then / students have classroom libraries with lots of books today

We reread these parts of the book and spent time talking about these details in depth.  The students were interested to hear that electricity hadn't been invented, and, in winter, the school was heated by a stove.  They also wanted to know why students only had hornbooks and thought it was interesting that books were too expensive and rare to have copies for everyone to read from.

Because we spent so much time talking about the text, the student's writing became richer.  They didn't just spit out facts or copy them from our book.  They were able to use those details in their writing. You can see in this video, Then and Now 1, that students  are actively engaged as they wrote about schools from the past on the left page and schools from the present on the right page.

Our Closure

3 minutes

I feel as though I've struggled with my closures in the past, so I really wanted to make sure I had strong, engaging closures in my lessons this year.  I found this resource, 40 ways to leave a lesson, online and have been trying to use many of the activities from this resource.

I decided to try idea #5 from the closure resource called "Whip Around."  I had a koosh ball and tossed it to the person on my left.  I said, "You need to tell me one thing that you've learned as a result of reading and talking about this story.  When you are done telling us what you've learned, toss the ball to the person next to you and they will share something different that they learned.  We will keep doing this until we've gotten to the last person on this end of the table."

This group really didn't have trouble telling me something that they learned.  If they did have trouble, I could have told them to look at their double bubble maps for help.  This way they would have a tool to fall back on.  It was a quick and fun way to end our lesson.