Monday, July 7, 2014

Comparing and Contrasting

Have you seen stares as blank as the copy of a Venn diagram on the table in front of them? I know that I have. Some students can generate similarities and differences like nobody's business. Others don't even know where to even begin. So, what's a teacher to do? Well, in this post, I have a few differentiation tips, a new product, a literature suggestion, and a freebie to share with you.  

Here are a few quick tips that I have stumbled upon during my years in inclusion and RtI instruction.
  1. Accept that some tasks are too difficult for some children without providing some scaffolding for their thought processes. There are children whose intellectual capabilities limit them from being able to complete higher level or critical thinking tasks without some kind of accommodations or assistance. Thinking ahead about their needs is vital for their success. Many of these same students can compare and contrast if given only minimal help. 
  2. Guiding questions can make a huge difference! I have often been surprised at the thoughtful responses my struggling students have given when they are answering only one question at a time. The size of the task was manageable for them.  When working in a small group, I ask guiding questions. Sometimes I pass out a list of questions on a strip of paper. I have also posted them on a pocket chart or the SMARTboard. Some examples would be: How does each animal move? Who was the main character? Where did each story take place? When was this person born? Students refer back to the text or texts in search of the answers. They aren't being expected to pull these ideas out of thin air. 
  3. Cut and Sort:  Providing students with cut and sort information is a great starting point for training them to recognize similarities and differences and organize their information. Many students who cannot generate the information on their own can correctly identify if the statement is true for only one subject or for both subjects of the task. 
  4.  This and That Rule: I try to model organizing thoughts by using a this and that rule. When students have found an answer for this person, event, text, etc. I show them that often they are looking for antonyms for that other person, event, text, etc. For example, if this text says that ants  are insects then they are trying to find a word in that text that shows that spiders are __________. (arachnids) This information is then matched up on the graphic organizer. This helps aid comprehension by organizing the information for quick recall. 
  5. Use a variety of graphic organizers.  Some students struggle with Venn diagrams, but the connectivity of a double bubble makes better visual sense to them. You may need to experiment with various formats: T-charts, double bubbles, check off sheets, highlight or color code. Students need to understand that Venns are not the only way to express alike and different. 
  6. Use visuals and pictures.  Many students can come up with similarities and differences when they have a visual example to look at. For example, a student could tell you that a horse and a cow both have long tails and walk on four legs just by viewing the picture. 
  7. Require meaty answers.  Don't let struggling students off the hook with easy answers. If you are comparing alligators and crocodiles, do not accept that one of their names starts with an A and the other starts with a C. They will try to get by on that level of thought! Ask them if that information is about the actual animal or just its name. Refocus their attention on the task. They will generally come through with a better response.
Here is a little peek at what is included in my newest TPT product. There are anchor cards, original texts (color and b/w), and various comparing and contrasting exercises based on the text. I am really excited about implementing this next year! I hope it will be useful to you, too. You can check it out {HERE}.
My favorite part of this pack is the culminating activity/center/assessment part! Students are given blank double bubble maps and a set of picture choices. They choose the pairs that they want to compare and contrast based on their prior knowledge of the subjects. My sweet son helped me out with this one again. He LOVES animals so those are the images that he picked. I love how this one is basically differentiated by the students themselves! 

My nature lovin' son brought home an A.R. book to read that was amazing! I may have said, "Good gravy, boy, you know how to pick a great book!" There is a series of books called "What's the Difference Between?" They compare and contrast two animals that people often confuse such as alligator/crocodile, frog/toad, butterfly/moth, leopard/cheetah, and many more. They are written by different authors, but are all illustrated by Bandelin Dacey Studios. The one my son checked out from the library compared turtles and tortoises. 
I love the layout of the pages. For instance, the left side had a full page illustration and text about the habitat of the turtle. The right side had a full page illustration and text about the habitat of the tortoise. It is just made for modeling comparing and contrasting with a graphic organizer. You may want to ask your media specialist to purchase this series for your school. 

If you happen to have access to this amazing book or if you want your students to do a little research, I have a double bubble freebie for you. It comes with a blank venn and cut/paste clues for differentiation. This is how the completed venn will look if you use the differentiated method.  Click {HERE} or on the image to download your copy. 
You can see more great book recommendations at Deanna Jump's Book Talk Tuesday linky here.

What have you found to be helpful when teaching comparing and contrasting? Please share any advice you have. I love to hear from you!


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