Presidential Prose: Comparing and Contrasting Two President-Themed Texts

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SWBAT compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.

Big Idea

In this lesson, students compare and contrast the components of two texts on the same topic by completing a Venn diagram.

Enroll Students Into Learning

5 minutes

To begin the lesson, our class meets at our classroom meeting space (on our rug) and I ask the students in my class what they thought of the text we read yesterday, John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith.  I ask them if they liked it or not.  Hands shoot up all over the place, so I know many students have something to say.  For that reason, I ask them to turn and talk to their neighbor to share what they felt about the text we read yesterday.  I ask them to be sure to include in their conversations if they liked the text and why or why not.

Experience Learning

5 minutes

After a few moments, I regain the students’ attention using the “If You Can Hear My Voice…” strategy (see my “Strategy Folder” for more information).  I ask the kids to share some of their conversations with our class now.  The students raise their hands and take turn explaining what they and their neighbor discussed.  

Now I tell the students that we’ve read two different texts about presidents, and we have taken a moment to discuss each day whether or not we personally enjoyed them.  But, today, I want them to move their personal feelings about the texts aside and to begin to look at the texts very, very closely.  In fact, today, I want the students to look only at the main components of both texts to determine how the texts are the same and how they’re different.  We take a quick look at our informational text anchor chart and I ask the kids to identify which of the text features we found in our first text, and which we found in our second text.

Label New Learning

5 minutes

After we finish reviewing the components of the informational text anchor chart, I tell the students that it’s very important as we grow as readers that we begin to think critically about texts we’re reading.  When we read two texts on the same topic, the authors may have had different purposes, different main ideas, different supporting details or text features that they utilized.  As readers, if we are able to identify how texts can be similar and different, we’re able to show that we understand the text clearly and area able to think critically about the messages about both texts.

Demonstrate Skills

10 minutes

Students head back to their seats as our paper passers help pass out the Venn diagram we’ll be using today.  While our paper passers help with our diagrams, I ask all other students to take out their two sets of notes that we’ve recorded over the last two days.  Students pull out their notes, one on So You Want to Be President? written by Judith St. George, and one on John, Paul, George, & Ben written by Lane Smith. 

We begin the process of comparing and contrasting texts by reviewing the purpose of a Venn diagram.  We use this model in our classroom often, and students have had experience with them prior to today’s lesson.  For this reason, I ask the students to explain to me how this diagram works, and specifically, how we’ll use it for today’s comparing and contrasting of the two texts.  Students share that the two circles represent each text, with the overlapped area representing how the two texts are the same and the separate areas (on the left and right sides) representing how the two texts are different or unique. 

To start working on the Venn diagram, I ask the students to look back to their notes.  The first component we made a note about was the main idea of each text.  I ask the students: “Do you think both texts had the same main idea?  Do you think the main ideas were different?”  Our class discusses for a bit before determining that the two texts have different main ideas.  Our class decides that the first text, So You Want to Be President?, primarily discusses why some presidents became president and the events that occurred while they were president.  We also conclude that the second text, John, Paul, George, & Ben, also discusses information about presidents, but really focuses more on what a few presidents were like as children, and how their personalities may have impacted what they were like or accomplished as adults.  We decide to make a note about the main ideas in each of the separate spaces of the Venn diagram to show that the main ideas are different in the texts. 

From here, we work through each component on our notes for each text.  We work through until we have placed all components either in a contrast (different) section or a comparison (same) section.


5 minutes

To close today, I tell the students they did a great job today thinking critically while analyzing these two texts to compare and contrast them!  I tell the students to tuck all of their notes along with the Venn diagram back into their reading folders today because tomorrow, we will use these to do some writing about these two texts!