More Than a Venn Diagram: Compare and Contrast Text Structure

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SWBAT identify the elements of the compare and contrast text structure and understand why an author would use it.

Big Idea

Authors choose the compare and contrast text structure when they want to show relationships between two or more things.


5 minutes

My students have been doing really well with the structures, so I've decided to let them work in small groups to "teach" the lessons to one another. This is the last of the structures to review, and we've touched on it already in previous lessons. I think my students can handle reviewing the notes, reading the short passage and trying a graphic organizer. They've seen me model the lesson 4 times, so I know handing off responsibility will be okay for this lesson. 

I'll start by simply asking students to discuss what they know about compare and contrast. Nothing ground breaking here, but the students are so familiar with the concept, that a little discussion is perfect to get this lesson moving. I plan to pull sticks and have the students come up to the board to write down their thoughts. They can draw pictures, write examples, provide definitions,etc. Anything goes. 

Take a look at the picture of 3 books that are organized in the compare and contrast structure. Just by "judging the book by it's cover" talk with your table partners about what the texts might be about 

When I looked for some book covers, I was just searching for ones that were obviously compare and contrast. I thought these might spark their interest as well, and I figured they could connect enough to the last two in order to give some good details about what comparisons might happen in the text.  I just wanted to activate their knowledge of compare and contrast. I'm hoping they'll be able to discuss they types of comparison information they would read in these texts. 

In previous lessons and grades you may have used the skill of compare and contrast to notice similarities and differences between texts, events, people and ideas, but now we're going to look at the organizational structure that authors use to provide information about related things. 


15 minutes

I planned to let students work through the lesson by breaking each section down, checking in and then moving onto the next steps. Students will start off their teaching by working with the notes about the compare and contrast text structure

  Today you will work in groups to teach the notes to your group members. You will work in teams of 3 today and one of you will play the role of the teacher for each of the tasks I give you today. The first teacher will lead the discussion of the notes about the compare and contrast structure. You must also explain the directions for processing on the adjacent page- remember our two important questions, "Why would an author use this structure? What graphic organizer would an author use to plan this structure? You must lead just as I have in the past. You are free to make the lesson better in any way you see fit, but you may only have 10 minutes for this part of the lesson. Once your group has finished working with the notes and processing the information, raise your hand to let me know you're ready. I'll be over to check in and hear what you have learned.

I'll be using the Independent Group Tracking Sheet and let the kids know that this is how I'll be monitoring their work in groups.  You can place one of these with each group as well. This is a great tool to use while students are working in their groups. You can move around to make annotations about students as they work.

At this point, the students are free to complete the first task. I'll move around the room to pose questions, give reminders and assist where necessary. It's good to pay close attention to the interaction with the notes and the searching for clue words in the sample paragraph. In previous lessons we walked through the notes step-by-step, but now the students will have to take some responsibility for their own learning. I also like to zero in on their processing for the two big questions- Why would an author use this structure? What graphic organizer would an author use to plan this structure? This is where I'll find any misconceptions as well. Some of the kids will try to slide by with answers like, "an author will compare things."  I'll pose questions like, Is that the most specific use for the structure you can think of?  What specific book about animals could I write in a compare and contrast structure? They may try to just say a Venn diagram for the graphic organizer, but I'd like to them to think beyond that.  Are there any other graphic organizers besides a Venn diagram? Is there a chart you could make that shows comparisons and differences?

When students have finished, I'll have them come together to share their thoughts and learning to do a quick check before moving on. This should let me know if I need to review anything before heading into the next section of the lesson. 


Guided Practice

10 minutes

Once students are ready to move on, pass out a compare and contrast paragraph and a venn diagram. I use something that I bought from teachers pay teachers, but you can use any resources you have. I included the Compare and Contrast Paragraph Practice to use if you want something free, but I may use it during my workstations. Here is how I set up my interactive notebooks. The page on the left is just a step by step picture of how I want the students to complete the graphic organizer. I like the graphic organizer because it turns the venn diagram into a foldable. The picture is better than how I could explain it. Again this is in the pack I bought, but you could easily create this with your students. 

You will now switch teachers in your group. The next teacher will guide you through the reading of the passage, highlighting compare and contrast words and ideas, and transferring that knowledge over to a Venn diagram to organize your thinking. Remember that graphic organizers help us see the big picture and help us become better readers. You will have 10 minutes to complete this task. Use what you remember of my previous lessons to help you lead your team.

As the students are working, I'll use the independent group sheet again to monitor. I need to check in with groups to be sure they are on the right track; color coding the compare and contrast elements, using graphic organizer correctly, and just looking out for any misconceptions. When my students are working like this, they generally stay on task because they're in charge and love it. I will slowly start moving them to a place where they teach whole lessons with me, but for now I give them little spots of time throughout each day to work on being a leader. The students have worked on how to lead without being bossy and how to help guide each other rather than "tell" each other. This takes some time to build, and the kiddos are never perfect. I'll sit down with kids along the way to discuss off task behavior, ask what they are contributing to the group, etc. Letting the students have ownership in the learning is really important to keeping them engaged. I plan to move to a more student-led room this year and really embrace it next year. When the kiddos become the leaders, the energy is amazing and it makes learning more enjoyable for them. It also holds them accountable for the material w're working with. 

Once students have finished, I'll ask a group or two to explain their thinking and tell about the process of being the teacher. Then I'll review the Venn diagram on the board to be sure students are clear. 

Group Practice

25 minutes

For your final teaching activity, the last person in your group will guide you through a Big Birds, Big City Passage that compares two types of birds. As the teacher it is not your job to read the passage to your group members, but to guide them through annotating the text, help them find compare and contrast clue words, and lead discussions about the text. You will all need to read the text in order to carry out this task, so I recommend you all so a silent read first before jumping in to your lesson. While you are working, you will want to try out this Compare and Contrast Structure Toolkit page. You will record important sentences at the bottom of the page, just as the directions suggest. All materials will be placed in your notebook. 

Let students get started and then make your way around the room to monitor and assist when necessary. It may be necessary to remind students to annotate the text, color code and the like. I plan to sit down with a few of my struggling students and just be there as a presence to help them feel comfortable. The text isn't too difficult so that all of my students can practice looking for those key terms and relationships. My students who rush and have a hard time focusing, may have difficulty here, so I'll make my way around to be sure they are on task and understand what they're doing. 

Once students have worked with the text and complete the t-chart on the toolkit sheet, call students together to review the work they have done. Students should have been able to identify a few other compare and contrast clue words and provide evidence from the text to describe the falcon and the eagle. Call students attention to the chart in the text and ask students if they found this helpful. Use this time to quickly discuss text features and the fact that it is a graphic organizer. Discuss how the chart gives a quick visual of the most important terms and that will help them remember and understand what they've read. 

If you feel uncomfortable letting your students run this or your class just isn't ready for this, use the time to run some small groups. The text and activity can be used in many ways. 


5 minutes

Once you feel that students grasped the lesson for today, provide them with the Compare and Contrast Check for Understanding. Allow students a few minutes to complete this independently. I collect these to sort students into groups for the next workstations lesson. I will be looking for evidence that students can find key compare and contrast details and utilize the graphic organizer.